Structure and function of TMEM16 proteins (anoctamins)

Physiol Rev. 2014 Apr;94(2):419-59. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00039.2011.


TMEM16 proteins, also known as anoctamins, are involved in a variety of functions that include ion transport, phospholipid scrambling, and regulation of other membrane proteins. The first two members of the family, TMEM16A (anoctamin-1, ANO1) and TMEM16B (anoctamin-2, ANO2), function as Ca2+-activated Cl- channels (CaCCs), a type of ion channel that plays important functions such as transepithelial ion transport, smooth muscle contraction, olfaction, phototransduction, nociception, and control of neuronal excitability. Genetic ablation of TMEM16A in mice causes impairment of epithelial Cl- secretion, tracheal abnormalities, and block of gastrointestinal peristalsis. TMEM16A is directly regulated by cytosolic Ca2+ as well as indirectly by its interaction with calmodulin. Other members of the anoctamin family, such as TMEM16C, TMEM16D, TMEM16F, TMEM16G, and TMEM16J, may work as phospholipid scramblases and/or ion channels. In particular, TMEM16F (ANO6) is a major contributor to the process of phosphatidylserine translocation from the inner to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane. Intriguingly, TMEM16F is also associated with the appearance of anion/cation channels activated by very high Ca2+ concentrations. Furthermore, a TMEM16 protein expressed in Aspergillus fumigatus displays both ion channel and lipid scramblase activity. This finding suggests that dual function is an ancestral characteristic of TMEM16 proteins and that some members, such as TMEM16A and TMEM16B, have evolved to a pure channel function. Mutations in anoctamin genes (ANO3, ANO5, ANO6, and ANO10) cause various genetic diseases. These diseases suggest the involvement of anoctamins in a variety of cell functions whose link with ion transport and/or lipid scrambling needs to be clarified.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chloride Channels / chemistry
  • Chloride Channels / drug effects
  • Chloride Channels / genetics
  • Chloride Channels / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Membrane Transport Modulators / pharmacology
  • Mutation
  • Protein Conformation
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Chloride Channels
  • Membrane Transport Modulators