Molecular and Cellular Biology

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Voltage-gated proton channels, HV1, were first reported in Helix aspersa snail neurons. These H+ channels open very rapidly, two to three orders of magnitude faster than mammalian HV1. Here we identify an HV1 gene in the snail Helisoma trivolvis and verify protein level expression by Western blotting of H. trivolvis brain lysate. Expressed in mammalian cells, HtHV1 currents in most respects resemble those described in other snails, including rapid activation, 476 times faster than hHV1 (human) at pHo 7, between 50 and 90 mV. In contrast to most HV1, activation of HtHV1 is exponential, suggesting first-order kinetics. However, the large gating charge of ∼5.5 e0 suggests that HtHV1 functions as a dimer, evidently with highly cooperative gating. HtHV1 opening is exquisitely sensitive to pHo, whereas closing is nearly independent of pHo. Zn2+ and Cd2+ inhibit HtHV1 currents in the micromolar range, slowing activation, shifting the proton conductance–voltage (gH-V) relationship to more positive potentials, and lowering the maximum conductance. This is consistent with HtHV1 possessing three of the four amino acids that coordinate Zn2+ in mammalian HV1. All known HV1 exhibit ΔpH-dependent gating that results in a 40-mV shift of the gH-V relationship for a unit change in either pHo or pHi. This property is crucial for all the functions of HV1 in many species and numerous human cells. The HtHV1 channel exhibits normal or supernormal pHo dependence, but weak pHi dependence. Under favorable conditions, this might result in the HtHV1 channel conducting inward currents and perhaps mediating a proton action potential. The anomalous ΔpH-dependent gating of HtHV1 channels suggests a structural basis for this important property, which is further explored in this issue (Cherny et al. 2018. J. Gen. Physiol.

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Journal of General Physiology

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© 2018 Thomas et al. This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 4.0 International license, as described at