Research ArticleBiophysics

The membrane protein Pannexin1 forms two open-channel conformations depending on the mode of activation

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Sci. Signal.  22 Jul 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 335, pp. ra69
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005431

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Pannexin1 (Panx1) participates in several signaling events that involve adenosine triphosphate (ATP) release, including the innate immune response, ciliary beat in airway epithelia, and oxygen supply in the vasculature. The view that Panx1 forms a large ATP release channel has been challenged by the association of a low-conductance, small anion-selective channel with the presence of Panx1. We showed that Panx1 membrane channels can function in two distinct modes with different conductances and permeabilities when heterologously expressed in Xenopus oocytes. When stimulated by potassium ions (K+), Panx1 formed a high-conductance channel of ~500 pS that was permeable to ATP. Various physiological stimuli can induce this ATP-permeable conformation of the channel in several cell types. In contrast, the channel had a low conductance (~50 pS) with no detectable ATP permeability when activated by voltage in the absence of K+. The two channel states were associated with different reactivities of the terminal cysteine of Panx1 to thiol reagents, suggesting different conformations. Single-particle electron microscopic analysis revealed that K+ stimulated the formation of channels with a larger pore diameter than those formed in the absence of K+. These data suggest that different stimuli lead to distinct channel structures with distinct biophysical properties.

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