Distinct pools of epithelial sodium channels are expressed at the plasma membrane

J Biol Chem. 2004 Nov 19;279(47):48491-4. doi: 10.1074/jbc.C400460200. Epub 2004 Oct 4.


The epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) is assembled in the endoplasmic reticulum from three structurally related subunits (alpha, beta, and gamma). Channel maturation within the biosynthetic pathway involves cleavage of the alpha and gamma subunits by furin and processing of N-linked glycans on alpha, beta, and gamma to complex type. Both mature and immature subunits have been observed at the surface of stably transfected Madin-Darby canine kidney cells. We have examined whether channel maturation is an all-or-none event or whether heterogeneous processing of channel subunits occurs within an individual channel complex. Using an immobilized lectin to isolate proteins with complex type N-glycans, we found that individual channel complexes with mature subunits lack immature subunits. Furthermore, terminal processing of N-glycans on ENaC subunits was not dependent on cleavage of ENaC subunits, and proteolysis of channel subunits was not dependent on prior processing of N-glycans. Our results suggest that processing of subunits within an individual channel complex is an all-or-none event such that channels present on the cell surface contain either all mature or all immature subunits. The presence of immature channel complexes at the plasma membrane provides epithelial cells with a reserve of poorly functional channels that can be activated by proteases in post-Golgi compartments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotinylation
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • DNA, Complementary / metabolism
  • Dogs
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • Lectins / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Sodium Channels / chemistry*
  • Transfection
  • Xenopus


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels
  • Lectins
  • Polysaccharides
  • Sodium Channels