Physiologically relevant acid-sensing ion channel (ASIC) 2a/3 heteromers have a 1:2 stoichiometry

Commun Biol. 2023 Jul 8;6(1):701. doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05087-4.


Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) sense extracellular protons and are involved in synaptic transmission and pain sensation. ASIC1a and ASIC3 are the ASIC subunits with the highest proton sensitivity. ASIC2a in contrast has low proton sensitivity but increases the variability of ASICs by forming heteromers with ASIC1a or ASIC3. ASICs are trimers and for the ASIC1a/2a heteromer it has been shown that subunits randomly assemble with a flexible 1:2/2:1 stoichiometry. Both heteromers have almost identical proton sensitivity intermediate between ASIC1a and ASIC2a. Here, we investigated the stoichiometry of the ASIC2a/3 heteromer. Using electrophysiology, we extensively characterized, first, cells expressing ASIC2a and ASIC3 at different ratios, second, concatemeric channels with a fixed subunit stoichiometry, and, third, channels containing loss-of-functions mutations in specific subunits. Our results conclusively show that only ASIC2a/3 heteromers with a 1:2 stoichiometry had a proton-sensitivity intermediate between ASIC2a and ASIC3. In contrast, the proton sensitivity of ASIC2a/3 heteromers with a 2:1 stoichiometry was strongly acid-shifted by more than one pH unit, which suggests that they are not physiologically relevant. Together, our results reveal that the proton sensitivity of the two ASIC2a/3 heteromers is clearly different and that ASIC3 and ASIC1a make remarkably different contributions to heteromers with ASIC2a.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acid Sensing Ion Channels* / chemistry
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Mutation
  • Protons*
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Acid Sensing Ion Channels
  • Protons