Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Ion channels


Repeated Wi-Fi studies show that Wi-Fi causes oxidative stress, sperm/testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects including EEG changes, apoptosis, cellular DNA damage, endocrine changes, and calcium overload. Each of these effects are also caused by exposures to other microwave frequency EMFs, with each such effect being documented in from 10 to 16 reviews. Therefore, each of these seven EMF effects are established effects of Wi-Fi and of other microwave frequency EMFs. Each of these seven is also produced by downstream effects of the main action of such EMFs, voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) activation. While VGCC activation via EMF interaction with the VGCC voltage sensor seems to be the predominant mechanism of action of EMFs, other mechanisms appear to have minor roles. Minor roles include activation of other voltage-gated ion channels, calcium cyclotron resonance and the geomagnetic magnetoreception mechanism. Five properties of non-thermal EMF effects are discussed. These are that pulsed EMFs are, in most cases, more active than are non-pulsed EMFs; artificial EMFs are polarized and such polarized EMFs are much more active than non-polarized EMFs; dose-response curves are non-linear and non-monotone; EMF effects are often cumulative; and EMFs may impact young people more than adults. These general findings and data presented earlier on Wi-Fi effects were used to assess the Foster and Moulder (F&M) review of Wi-Fi. The F&M study claimed that there were seven important studies of Wi-Fi that each showed no effect. However, none of these were Wi-Fi studies, with each differing from genuine Wi-Fi in three distinct ways. F&M could, at most conclude that there was no statistically significant evidence of an effect. The tiny numbers studied in each of these seven F&M-linked studies show that each of them lack power to make any substantive conclusions. In conclusion, there are seven repeatedly found Wi-Fi effects which have also been shown to be caused by other similar EMF exposures. Each of the seven should be considered, therefore, as established effects of Wi-Fi.

Concepts: Neuron, Statistical significance, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Ion channels, Voltage-dependent calcium channel, Microwave


TRPV4 ion channels represent osmo-mechano-TRP channels with pleiotropic function and wide-spread expression. One of the critical functions of TRPV4 in this spectrum is its involvement in pain and inflammation. However, few small-molecule inhibitors of TRPV4 are available. Here we developed TRPV4-inhibitory molecules based on modifications of a known TRPV4-selective tool-compound, GSK205. We not only increased TRPV4-inhibitory potency, but surprisingly also generated two compounds that potently co-inhibit TRPA1, known to function as chemical sensor of noxious and irritant signaling. We demonstrate TRPV4 inhibition by these compounds in primary cells with known TRPV4 expression - articular chondrocytes and astrocytes. Importantly, our novel compounds attenuate pain behavior in a trigeminal irritant pain model that is known to rely on TRPV4 and TRPA1. Furthermore, our novel dual-channel blocker inhibited inflammation and pain-associated behavior in a model of acute pancreatitis - known to also rely on TRPV4 and TRPA1. Our results illustrate proof of a novel concept inherent in our prototype compounds of a drug that targets two functionally-related TRP channels, and thus can be used to combat isoforms of pain and inflammation in-vivo that involve more than one TRP channel. This approach could provide a novel paradigm for treating other relevant health conditions.

Concepts: Protein, Molecule, Chemistry, Enzyme inhibitor, Chemical compound, Ion channels, Transient receptor potential channel, TRPV


Behavioral output of neural networks depends on a delicate balance between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic connections. However, it is not known whether network formation and stability is constrained by the sign of synaptic connections between neurons within the network. Here we show that switching the sign of a synapse within a neural circuit can reverse the behavioral output. The inhibitory tyramine-gated chloride channel, LGC-55, induces head relaxation and inhibits forward locomotion during the Caenorhabditis elegans escape response. We switched the ion selectivity of an inhibitory LGC-55 anion channel to an excitatory LGC-55 cation channel. The engineered cation channel is properly trafficked in the native neural circuit and results in behavioral responses that are opposite to those produced by activation of the LGC-55 anion channel. Our findings indicate that switches in ion selectivity of ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs) do not affect network connectivity or stability and may provide an evolutionary and a synthetic mechanism to change behavior.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Caenorhabditis elegans, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Ion, Ion channels, Membrane potential


Although the activity of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) is exquisitely sensitive to its membrane environment, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly defined. The homologous prokaryotic pentameric ligand gated ion channel, GLIC, represents an excellent model for probing the molecular basis of nAChR sensitivity due to its high structural homology, ease of expression, and amenability to crystallographic analysis. We show here that membrane-reconstituted GLIC exhibits structural and biophysical properties similar to those of membrane-reconstituted nAChR, although GLIC is substantially more thermally stable. GLIC, however, does not possess the same exquisite lipid sensitivity. In particular, GLIC does not exhibit the same propensity to adopt an uncoupled conformation where agonist binding is uncoupled from channel gating. Structural comparisons provide insight into the chemical features that may predispose the nAChR to the formation of an uncoupled state.

Concepts: Receptor, Acetylcholine, Ion channels, Myasthenia gravis, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor, Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, Acetylcholine receptor, Ligand-gated ion channel


Theoretical and computational frameworks for synaptic plasticity and learning have a long and cherished history, with few parallels within the well-established literature for plasticity of voltage-gated ion channels. In this study, we derive rules for plasticity in the hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels, and assess the synergy between synaptic and HCN channel plasticity in establishing stability during synaptic learning. To do this, we employ a conductance-based model for the hippocampal pyramidal neuron, and incorporate synaptic plasticity through the well-established Bienenstock-Cooper-Munro (BCM)-like rule for synaptic plasticity, wherein the direction and strength of the plasticity is dependent on the concentration of calcium influx. Under this framework, we derive a rule for HCN channel plasticity to establish homeostasis in synaptically-driven firing rate, and incorporate such plasticity into our model. In demonstrating that this rule for HCN channel plasticity helps maintain firing rate homeostasis after bidirectional synaptic plasticity, we observe a linear relationship between synaptic plasticity and HCN channel plasticity for maintaining firing rate homeostasis. Motivated by this linear relationship, we derive a calcium-dependent rule for HCN-channel plasticity, and demonstrate that firing rate homeostasis is maintained in the face of synaptic plasticity when moderate and high levels of cytosolic calcium influx induced depression and potentiation of the HCN-channel conductance, respectively. Additionally, we show that such synergy between synaptic and HCN-channel plasticity enhances the stability of synaptic learning through metaplasticity in the BCM-like synaptic plasticity profile. Finally, we demonstrate that the synergistic interaction between synaptic and HCN-channel plasticity preserves robustness of information transfer across the neuron under a rate-coding schema. Our results establish specific physiological roles for experimentally observed plasticity in HCN channels accompanying synaptic plasticity in hippocampal neurons, and uncover potential links between HCN-channel plasticity and calcium influx, dynamic gain control and stable synaptic learning.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Ion channels, Pyramidal cell, Integral membrane proteins, Neurochemistry


In the gastrointestinal (GI) epithelium, enterochromaffin (EC) cells are enteroendocrine cells responsible for producing >90% of the body’s serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT). However, the molecular mechanisms of EC cell function are poorly understood. Here, we found that EC cells in mouse primary cultures fired spontaneous bursts of action potentials. We examined the repertoire of voltage-gated sodium channels (NaV) in fluorescence-sorted mouse EC cells and found that Scn3a was highly expressed. Scn3a-encoded NaV1.3 was specifically and densely expressed at the basal side of both human and mouse EC cells. Using electrophysiology, we found that EC cells expressed robust NaV1.3 currents, as determined by their biophysical and pharmacologic properties. NaV1.3 was not only critical for generating action potentials in EC cells, but it was also important for regulating 5-HT release by these cells. Therefore, EC cells use Scn3a-encoded voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.3 for electrical excitability and 5-HT release. NaV1.3-dependent electrical excitability and its contribution to 5-HT release is a novel mechanism of EC cell function.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Serotonin, Sodium channel, Ion channels, Enterochromaffin cell, SCN3A


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a prevalent psychiatric condition with limited therapeutic options beyond monoaminergic therapies. Although effective in some individuals, many patients fail to respond adequately to existing treatments, and new pharmacologic targets are needed. Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels regulate excitability in neurons, and blocking HCN channel function has been proposed as a novel antidepressant strategy. However, systemic blockade of HCN channels produces cardiac effects that limit this approach. Knockout (KO) of the brain-specific HCN-channel auxiliary subunit tetratricopeptide repeat-containing Rab8b-interacting protein (TRIP8b) also produces antidepressant-like behavioral effects and suggests that inhibiting TRIP8b function could produce antidepressant-like effects without affecting the heart. We examined the structural basis of TRIP8b-mediated HCN-channel trafficking and its relationship with antidepressant-like behavior using a viral rescue approach in TRIP8b KO mice. We found that restoring TRIP8b to the hippocampus was sufficient to reverse the impaired HCN-channel trafficking and antidepressant-like behavioral effects caused by TRIP8b KO. Moreover, we found that hippocampal expression of a mutated version of TRIP8b further impaired HCN-channel trafficking and increased the antidepressant-like behavioral phenotype of TRIP8b KO mice. Thus, modulating the TRIP8b-HCN interaction bidirectionally influences channel trafficking and antidepressant-like behavior. Overall, our work suggests that small-molecule inhibitors of the interaction between TRIP8b and HCN should produce antidepressant-like behaviors and could represent a new paradigm for the treatment of MDD.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 12 July 2016; doi:10.1038/mp.2016.99.

Concepts: Psychology, Electrophysiology, Hippocampus, Serotonin, Ion channels, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Schizophrenia, Major depressive disorder


The pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus), a gleaning bat found in the western United States and Mexico, hunts a wide variety of ground-dwelling prey, including scorpions. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the pallid bat is resistant to scorpion venom, but no systematic study has been performed. Here we show with behavioral measures and direct injection of venom that the pallid bat is resistant to venom of the Arizona bark scorpion, Centruroides sculpturatus. Our results show that the pallid bat is stung multiple times during a hunt without any noticeable effect on behavior. In addition, direct injection of venom at mouse LD50 concentrations (1.5 mg/kg) has no effect on bat behavior. At the highest concentration tested (10 mg/kg), three out of four bats showed no effects. One of the four bats showed a transient effect suggesting that additional studies are required to identify potential regional variation in venom tolerance. Scorpion venom is a cocktail of toxins, some of which activate voltage-gated sodium ion channels, causing intense pain. Dorsal root ganglia (DRG) contain nociceptive neurons and are principal targets of scorpion venom toxins. To understand if mutations in specific ion channels contribute to venom resistance, a pallid bat DRG transcriptome was generated. As sodium channels are a major target of scorpion venom, we identified amino acid substitutions present in the pallid bat that may lead to venom resistance. Some of these substitutions are similar to corresponding amino acids in sodium channel isoforms responsible for reduced venom binding activity. The substitution found previously in the grasshopper mouse providing venom resistance to the bark scorpion is not present in the pallid bat, indicating a potentially novel mechanism for venom resistance in the bat that remains to be identified. Taken together, these results indicate that the pallid bat is resistant to venom of the bark scorpion and altered sodium ion channel function may partly underlie such resistance.

Concepts: Action potential, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Sodium, Ion channels, Bat, Pallid bat, Buthidae


TRPV4 ion channels function in epidermal keratinocytes and in innervating sensory neurons, however, the contribution of the channel in either cell to neurosensory function remains to be elucidated. We recently reported TRPV4 as a critical component of the keratinocyte machinery that responds to UVB, and functions critically to convert the keratinocyte into a pain-generator cell after excess UVB exposure. One key mechanism in keratinocytes was increased expression and secretion of endothelin-1, which is also a known pruritogen. Here we address the question whether TRPV4 in skin keratinocytes functions in itch, as a particular form of forefront signaling in non-neural cells. Our results support this novel concept, based on attenuated scratching behavior in response to histaminergic (histamine, compound 48/80, endothelin-1), not non-histaminergic (chloroquine) pruritogens in Trpv4 keratinocyte-specific and inducible knockout mice. We demonstrate that keratinocytes rely on TRPV4 for calcium influx in response to histaminergic pruritogens. TRPV4 activation in keratinocytes evokes phosphorylation of MAP-kinase, ERK, for histaminergic pruritogens. This finding is relevant because we observed robust anti-pruritic effects with topical applications of selective inhibitors for TRPV4 and also for MEK, the kinase upstream of ERK, suggesting that calcium influx via TRPV4 in keratinocytes leads to ERK-phosphorylation, which in-turn rapidly converts the keratinocyte into an organismal itch-generator cell. In support of this concept we found that scratching behavior, evoked by direct intradermal activation of TRPV4, was critically dependent on TRPV4-expression in keratinocytes. Thus, TRPV4 functions as a pruriceptor-TRP in skin keratinocytes in histaminergic itch, a novel basic concept with translational-medical relevance.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Signal transduction, Action potential, Ion channel, Ion channels, Keratinocyte, TRPV


Intracellular organelles mediate complex cellular functions that often require ion transport across their membranes. Melanosomes are organelles responsible for the synthesis of the major mammalian pigment melanin. Defects in melanin synthesis result in pigmentation defects, visual deficits, and increased susceptibility to skin and eye cancers. Although genes encoding putative melanosomal ion transporters have been identified as key regulators of melanin synthesis, melanosome ion transport and its contribution to pigmentation remain poorly understood. Here we identify two-pore channel 2 (TPC2) as the first reported melanosomal cation conductance by directly patch-clamping skin and eye melanosomes. TPC2 has been implicated in human pigmentation and melanoma, but the molecular mechanism mediating this function was entirely unknown. We demonstrate that the vesicular signaling lipid phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate PI(3,5)P2 modulates TPC2 activity to control melanosomal membrane potential, pH, and regulate pigmentation.

Concepts: Cell, Cell membrane, Sodium, Melanin, Ion channels, Human skin color, Melanocyte, Melanosome