ImmunoSensation - the immune sensory system

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A . 2020 Jun 16

A family of hyperpolarization-activated channels selective for protons

Masato Sadahiro, Michael P Demars, Poromendro Burman, Priscilla Yevoo, Andreas Zimmer, Hirofumi Morishita, Lea Wobig, Thérèse Wolfenstetter, Sylvia Fechner, Wolfgang Bönigk, Heinz G Körschen, Jan F Jikeli, Christian Trötschel, Regina Feederle, U Benjamin Kaupp, Reinhard Seifert, Thomas K Berger

Proton (H+) channels are special: They select protons against other ions that are up to a millionfold more abundant. Only a few proton channels have been identified so far. Here, we identify a family of voltage-gated "pacemaker" channels, HCNL1, that are exquisitely selective for protons. HCNL1 activates during hyperpolarization and conducts protons into the cytosol. Surprisingly, protons permeate through the channel's voltage-sensing domain, whereas the pore domain is nonfunctional. Key to proton permeation is a methionine residue that interrupts the series of regularly spaced arginine residues in the S4 voltage sensor. HCNL1 forms a tetramer and thus contains four proton pores. Unlike classic HCN channels, HCNL1 is not gated by cyclic nucleotides. The channel is present in zebrafish sperm and carries a proton inward current that acidifies the cytosol. Our results suggest that protons rather than cyclic nucleotides serve as cellular messengers in zebrafish sperm. Through small modifications in two key functional domains, HCNL1 evolutionarily adapted to a low-Na+ freshwater environment to conserve sperm's ability to depolarize.

PMID: 32467169