Intersubunit interactions between mutant DEG/ENaCs induce synthetic neurotoxicity

W. Zhang, L. Bianchi, W. H. Lee, Y. Wang, S. Israel, M. Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Ion channel hyperactivation can result in neuronal loss in injury, stroke and neurodegenerative disease. Acidosis-associated hyperactivation of the Degenerin/epithelial amiloride-sensitive Na+ channel (DEG/ENaC) acid-sensing ion channel 1a (ASIC1a), a proton-gated channel expressed in the mammalian brain, contributes significantly to neuronal loss in ischemia. Analogously, in invertebrates, genetic hyperactivation of the Caenorhabditis elegans mechanosensory (MEC) channel (MEC-4(d)) of the DEG/ENaC ion channel superfamily induces neuronal necrosis. Similarly substituted MEC-10(d) mutant subunits of the same MEC channel are only marginally neurotoxic, and we therefore exploited the weak necrosis phenotype of mec-10(d) lines to screen for novel extragenic mutations that enhance neuronal death. Here, we report on one mec-10(d) necrosis enhancer, which we show is MEC-4 variant MEC-4(A149V). MEC-4(A149V) executes normal MEC-4 function in touch sensation and does not induce necrosis on its own, but rather combines with MEC-10(d) to create a strongly neurotoxic channel. The MEC-4(A149V)+MEC-10(d) channel conducts elevated Na+ and Ca2+ currents (with a disproportionate increase in Ca2+ current) in the Xenopus oocyte expression system, and exhibits altered binding of the channel inhibitor amiloride. Our data document the first example of synergistically toxic intersubunit interactions in the DEG/ENaC channel class and provide evidence that Ca2+ current levels may be decisive factors in tipping the balance between neuronal survival and necrosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1794-1803
Number of pages10
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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