The N-terminal Domain Allosterically Regulates Cleavage and Activation of the Epithelial Sodium Channel [Computational Biology]

June 28th, 2014 by Kota, P., Buchner, G., Chakraborty, H., Dang, Y. L., He, H., Garcia, G. J. M., Kubelka, J., Gentzsch, M., Stutts, M. J., Dokholyan, N. V.

The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is activated upon endoproteolytic cleavage of specific segments in the extracellular domains of the α- and γ- subunits. Cleavage is accomplished by intracellular proteases prior to membrane insertion and by surface-expressed or extracellular soluble proteases once ENaC resides at the cell surface. These cleavage events are partially regulated by intracellular signaling through an unknown allosteric mechanism. Here we show that the intracellular N-terminus of γ-ENaC undergoes secondary structural transitions upon interaction with phosphoinositides. From ab initio folding simulations of the N-termini in the presence and absence of phosphatidylinositol 4,5 bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2 or PIP2) we found that PIP2 increases alpha-helical propensity in the N-terminus of γ-ENaC. Electrophysiology and mutation experiments revealed that a highly conserved cluster of lysines in the γ-ENaC N-terminus regulates accessibility of extracellular cleavage sites in γ-ENaC. We also show that conditions that decrease PIP2 or enhance ubiquitination sharply limit access of the γ-ENaC extracellular domain to proteases. Further, the efficiency of allosteric control of ENaC proteolysis is dependent on Tyr370 in γ-ENaC. Our findings provide an allosteric mechanism for ENaC activation regulated by the N-termini and sheds light on potentially general mechanism of channel and receptor activation.