Pacemaker (HCN) channels have a key role in the generation and modulation of spontaneous activity of sinoatrial node myocytes. Previous work has shown that compartmentation of HCN4 pacemaker channels within caveolae regulates important functions, but the molecular mechanism responsible is still unknown. HCN channels have a conserved caveolin-binding domain (CBD) composed of three aromatic amino acids at the N-terminus; we sought to evaluate the role of this CBD in channel-protein interaction by mutational analysis. We generated two HCN4 mutants with a disrupted CBD (Y259S, F262V) and two with conservative mutations (Y259F, F262Y). In CHO cells expressing endogenous caveolin-1 (cav-1), alteration of the CBD shifted channels activation to more positive potentials, slowed deactivation and made Y259S and F262V mutants insensitive to cholesterol depletion-induced caveolar disorganization. CBD alteration also caused a significant decrease of current density, due to a weaker HCN4-cav-1 interaction and accumulation of cytoplasmic channels. These effects were absent in mutants with a preserved CBD. In caveolin-1-free fibroblasts, HCN4 trafficking was impaired and current density reduced with all constructs; the activation curve of F262V was not altered relative to wt, and that of Y259S displayed only half the shift than in CHO cells. The conserved CBD present in all HCN isoforms mediates their functional interaction with caveolins. The elucidation of the molecular details of HCN4-cav-1 interaction can provide novel information to understand the basis of cardiac phenotypes associated with some forms of caveolinopathies.
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