NALCN ion channels have alternative selectivity filters resembling calcium channels or sodium channels

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e55088. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055088. Epub 2013 Jan 28.

Abstract

NALCN is a member of the family of ion channels with four homologous, repeat domains that include voltage-gated calcium and sodium channels. NALCN is a highly conserved gene from simple, extant multicellular organisms without nervous systems such as sponges and placozoans and mostly remains a single gene compared to the calcium and sodium channels which diversified into twenty genes in humans. The single NALCN gene has alternatively-spliced exons at exons 15 or exon 31 that splices in novel selectivity filter residues that resemble calcium channels (EEEE) or sodium channels (EKEE or EEKE). NALCN channels with alternative calcium, (EEEE) and sodium, (EKEE or EEKE) -selective pores are conserved in simple bilaterally symmetrical animals like flatworms to non-chordate deuterostomes. The single NALCN gene is limited as a sodium channel with a lysine (K)-containing pore in vertebrates, but originally NALCN was a calcium-like channel, and evolved to operate as both a calcium channel and sodium channel for different roles in many invertebrates. Expression patterns of NALCN-EKEE in pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis suggest roles for NALCN in secretion, with an abundant expression in brain, and an up-regulation in secretory organs of sexually-mature adults such as albumen gland and prostate. NALCN-EEEE is equally abundant as NALCN-EKEE in snails, but is greater expressed in heart and other muscle tissue, and 50% less expressed in the brain than NALCN-EKEE. Transfected snail NALCN-EEEE and NALCN-EKEE channel isoforms express in HEK-293T cells. We were not able to distinguish potential NALCN currents from background, non-selective leak conductances in HEK293T cells. Native leak currents without expressing NALCN genes in HEK-293T cells are NMDG(+) impermeant and blockable with 10 µM Gd(3+) ions and are indistinguishable from the hallmark currents ascribed to mammalian NALCN currents expressed in vitro by Lu et al. in Cell. 2007 Apr 20;129(2):371-83.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / chemistry*
  • Calcium Channels / genetics
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Porosity
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Snails
  • Sodium Channels / chemistry*
  • Sodium Channels / genetics*
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism

Substances

  • Calcium Channels
  • NALCN protein, human
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Sodium Channels

Grant support

This work was funded through a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Canada Discovery grant and Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada Grant-In-Aid to JDS and an NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship and Ontario Graduate Scholarship award to AS. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.