Epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) subunits undergo N-linked glycosylation in the endoplasmic reticulum where they assemble into an αβγ complex. Six, 13, and 5 consensus sites (Asn-X-Ser/Thr) for N-glycosylation reside in the extracellular domains of the mouse α-, β-, and γ-subunits, respectively. Because the importance of ENaC N-linked glycans has not been fully addressed, we examined the effect of preventing N-glycosylation of specific subunits on channel function, expression, maturation, and folding. Heterologous expression in Xenopus oocytes or Fischer rat thyroid cells with αβγ-ENaC lacking N-linked glycans on a single subunit reduced ENaC activity as well as the inhibitory response to extracellular Na+. The lack of N-linked glycans on the β-subunit also precluded channel activation by trypsin. However, channel activation by shear stress was N-linked glycan independent, regardless of which subunit was modified. We also discovered that the lack of N-linked glycans on any one subunit reduced the total and surface levels of cognate subunits. The lack of N-linked glycans on the β-subunit had the largest effect on total levels, with the lack of N-linked glycans on the γ- and α-subunits having intermediate and modest effects, respectively. Finally, channels with wild-type β-subunits were more sensitive to limited trypsin proteolysis than channels lacking N-linked glycans on the β-subunit. Our results indicate that N-linked glycans on each subunit are required for proper folding, maturation, surface expression, and function of the channel.
Keywords: N-linked glycan; epithelial sodium channel; maturation; mechanosensation.