Ion channels form the basis for cellular electrical signaling. Despite the scores of genetically identified ion channels selective for other monatomic ions, only one type of proton-selective ion channel has been found in eukaryotic cells. By comparative transcriptome analysis of mouse taste receptor cells, we identified Otopetrin1 (OTOP1), a protein required for development of gravity-sensing otoconia in the vestibular system, as forming a proton-selective ion channel. We found that murine OTOP1 is enriched in acid-detecting taste receptor cells and is required for their zinc-sensitive proton conductance. Two related murine genes, Otop2 and Otop3, and a Drosophila ortholog also encode proton channels. Evolutionary conservation of the gene family and its widespread tissue distribution suggest a broad role for proton channels in physiology and pathophysiology.
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