Molecular and Cellular Biology

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Extraordinary selectivity is crucial to all proton-conducting molecules, including the human voltage-gated proton channel (hHv1), because the proton concentration is >106 times lower than that of other cations. Here we use "selectivity filter scanning" to elucidate the molecular requirements for proton-specific conduction in hHv1. Asp112, in the middle of the S1 transmembrane helix, is an essential part of the selectivity filter in wild-type (WT) channels. After neutralizing Asp112 by mutating it to Ala (D112A), we introduced Asp at each position along S1 from 108 to 118, searching for "second site suppressor" activity. Surprisingly, most mutants lacked even the anion conduction exhibited by D112A. Proton-specific conduction was restored only with Asp or Glu at position 116. The D112V/V116D channel strikingly resembled WT in selectivity, kinetics, and ΔpH-dependent gating. The S4 segment of this mutant has similar accessibility to WT in open channels, because R211H/D112V/V116D was inhibited by internally applied Zn2+. Asp at position 109 allowed anion permeation in combination with D112A but did not rescue function in the nonconducting D112V mutant, indicating that selectivity is established externally to the constriction at F150. The three positions that permitted conduction all line the pore in our homology model, clearly delineating the conduction pathway. Evidently, a carboxyl group must face the pore directly to enable conduction. Molecular dynamics simulations indicate reorganization of hydrogen bond networks in the external vestibule in D112V/V116D. At both positions where it produces proton selectivity, Asp frequently engages in salt linkage with one or more Arg residues from S4. Surprisingly, mean hydration profiles were similar in proton-selective, anionpermeable, and nonconducting constructs. That the selectivity filter functions in a new location helps to define local environmental features required to produce proton-selective conduction.

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Journal of General Physiology

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