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Second coiled-coil domain of KCNQ channel controls current expression and subfamily specific heteromultimerization by salt bridge networks.

Koichi Nakajo, Yoshihiro Kubo

J. Physiol. (Lond.), 2008 Jun 15 , 586, 2827-40

KCNQ channels carry the slowly activating, voltage-dependent M-current in excitable cells such as neurons. Although the KCNQ2 homomultimer can form a functional voltage-gated K(+) channel, heteromultimerization with KCNQ3 produces a > 10-fold increase in current amplitude. All KCNQ channels contain double coiled-coil domains (TCC1 and TCC2, or A-domain Head and Tail), of which TCC2 (A-domain Tail) is thought to be important for subunit recognition, channel assembly and surface expression. The mechanism by which TCC2 recognizes and associates with its partner is not fully understood, however. Our aim in the present study was to elucidate the recognition mechanism by examining the phenotypes of TCC2-deletion mutants, TCC2-swapped chimeras and point mutants. Electrophysiological analysis using Xenopus oocytes under two-electrode voltage clamp revealed that homotetrameric KCNQ3 TCC2 is a negative regulator of current expression in the absence of KCNQ2 TCC2. Recent structural analysis of KCNQ4 TCC2 revealed the presence of intercoil salt bridge networks. We therefore swapped the sign of the charged residues reportedly involved in the salt bridge formation and functionally confirmed that the intercoil salt bridge network is responsible for the subunit recognition between KCNQ2 and KCNQ3. Finally, we constructed TCC2-swapped KCNQ2/KCNQ3 mutants with KCNQ1 TCC2 or GCN4-pLI, a coiled-coil domain from an unrelated protein, and found that TCC2 is substitutable and even GCN4-pLI can work as a substitute for TCC2. Our present data provide some new insights into the role played by TCC2 during current expression, and also provide functional evidence of the importance of the intercoil salt bridge network for subunit recognition and coiled-coil formation, as is suggested by recent crystallographic data.