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Concept: Voltage-gated ion channel


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


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


Identifying the determinants of neuronal energy consumption and their relationship to information coding is critical to understanding neuronal function and evolution. Three of the main determinants are cell size, ion channel density, and stimulus statistics. Here we investigate their impact on neuronal energy consumption and information coding by comparing single-compartment spiking neuron models of different sizes with different densities of stochastic voltage-gated Na(+) and K(+) channels and different statistics of synaptic inputs. The largest compartments have the highest information rates but the lowest energy efficiency for a given voltage-gated ion channel density, and the highest signaling efficiency (bits spike(-1)) for a given firing rate. For a given cell size, our models revealed that the ion channel density that maximizes energy efficiency is lower than that maximizing information rate. Low rates of small synaptic inputs improve energy efficiency but the highest information rates occur with higher rates and larger inputs. These relationships produce a Law of Diminishing Returns that penalizes costly excess information coding capacity, promoting the reduction of cell size, channel density, and input stimuli to the minimum possible, suggesting that the trade-off between energy and information has influenced all aspects of neuronal anatomy and physiology.Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication, 19 June 2013; doi:10.1038/jcbfm.2013.103.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Ion channel, Voltage-gated ion channel, Membrane potential, Information theory, Potassium channel, Voltage-dependent calcium channel


The ability of azobenzene trimethylammonium bromide (azoTAB) to sensitize cardiac tissue excitability to light was recently reported. The dark, thermally relaxed trans- isomer of azoTAB suppressed spontaneous activity and excitation propagation speed, whereas the cis- isomer had no detectable effect on the electrical properties of cardiomyocyte monolayers. As the membrane potential of cardiac cells is mainly controlled by activity of voltage-gated ion channels, this study examined whether the sensitization effect of azoTAB was exerted primarily via the modulation of voltage-gated ion channel activity. The effects of trans- and cis- isomers of azoTAB on voltage-dependent sodium (INav), calcium (ICav), and potassium (IKv) currents in isolated neonatal rat cardiomyocytes were investigated using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique. The experiments showed that azoTAB modulated ion currents, causing suppression of sodium (Na+) and calcium (Ca2+) currents and potentiation of net potassium (K+) currents. This finding confirms that azoTAB-effect on cardiac tissue excitability do indeed result from modulation of voltage-gated ion channels responsible for action potential.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Voltage-gated potassium channel, Potassium channel, Patch clamp


The single-span membrane protein KCNE3 modulates a variety of voltage-gated ion channels in diverse biological contexts. In epithelial cells, KCNE3 regulates the function of the KCNQ1 potassium ion (K(+)) channel to enable K(+) recycling coupled to transepithelial chloride ion (Cl(-)) secretion, a physiologically critical cellular transport process in various organs and whose malfunction causes diseases, such as cystic fibrosis (CF), cholera, and pulmonary edema. Structural, computational, biochemical, and electrophysiological studies lead to an atomically explicit integrative structural model of the KCNE3-KCNQ1 complex that explains how KCNE3 induces the constitutive activation of KCNQ1 channel activity, a crucial component in K(+) recycling. Central to this mechanism are direct interactions of KCNE3 residues at both ends of its transmembrane domain with residues on the intra- and extracellular ends of the KCNQ1 voltage-sensing domain S4 helix. These interactions appear to stabilize the activated “up” state configuration of S4, a prerequisite for full opening of the KCNQ1 channel gate. In addition, the integrative structural model was used to guide electrophysiological studies that illuminate the molecular basis for how estrogen exacerbates CF lung disease in female patients, a phenomenon known as the “CF gender gap.”

Concepts: Protein, Cell membrane, Action potential, Ion channel, Voltage-gated ion channel, Cystic fibrosis, Ion, Voltage-gated potassium channel


The ability to directly enhance electrical excitability of human cells is hampered by the lack of methods to efficiently overexpress large mammalian voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSC). Here we describe the use of small prokaryotic sodium channels (BacNav) to create de novo excitable human tissues and augment impaired action potential conduction in vitro. Lentiviral co-expression of specific BacNav orthologues, an inward-rectifying potassium channel, and connexin-43 in primary human fibroblasts from the heart, skin or brain yields actively conducting cells with customizable electrophysiological phenotypes. Engineered fibroblasts (‘E-Fibs’) retain stable functional properties following extensive subculture or differentiation into myofibroblasts and rescue conduction slowing in an in vitro model of cardiac interstitial fibrosis. Co-expression of engineered BacNav with endogenous mammalian VGSCs enhances action potential conduction and prevents conduction failure during depolarization by elevated extracellular K(+), decoupling or ischaemia. These studies establish the utility of engineered BacNav channels for induction, control and recovery of mammalian tissue excitability.

Concepts: Neuron, Fibroblast, Heart, Action potential, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Sodium channel


The mechanism of ion channel voltage gating-how channels open and close in response to voltage changes-has been debated since Hodgkin and Huxley’s seminal discovery that the crux of nerve conduction is ion flow across cellular membranes. Using all-atom molecular dynamics simulations, we show how a voltage-gated potassium channel (KV) switches between activated and deactivated states. On deactivation, pore hydrophobic collapse rapidly halts ion flow. Subsequent voltage-sensing domain (VSD) relaxation, including inward, 15-angstrom S4-helix motion, completes the transition. On activation, outward S4 motion tightens the VSD-pore linker, perturbing linker-S6-helix packing. Fluctuations allow water, then potassium ions, to reenter the pore; linker-S6 repacking stabilizes the open pore. We propose a mechanistic model for the sodium/potassium/calcium voltage-gated ion channel superfamily that reconciles apparently conflicting experimental data.

Concepts: Action potential, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Ion channels, Voltage-gated potassium channel, Potassium channel, Integral membrane proteins


The Ca(2+)-permeable cation channel transient receptor potential melastatin 2 (TRPM2) plays a key role in pathogen-evoked phagocyte activation, postischemic neuronal apoptosis, and glucose-evoked insulin secretion, by linking these cellular responses to oxidative stress. TRPM2 channels are coactivated by binding of intracellular ADP ribose and Ca(2+) to distinct cytosolically accessible sites on the channels. These ligands likely regulate the activation gate, conserved in the voltage-gated cation channel superfamily, that comprises a helix bundle formed by the intracellular ends of transmembrane helix six of each subunit. For several K(+) and TRPM family channels, activation gate opening requires the presence of phosphatidylinositol-bisphosphate (PIP(2)) in the inner membrane leaflet. Most TRPM family channels inactivate upon prolonged stimulation in inside-out patches; this “rundown” is due to PIP(2) depletion. TRPM2 currents also run down within minutes, but the molecular mechanism of this process is unknown. Here we report that high-affinity PIP(2) binding regulates Ca(2+) sensitivity of TRPM2 activation. Nevertheless, TRPM2 inactivation is not due to PIP(2) depletion; rather, it is state dependent, sensitive to permeating ions, and can be completely prevented by mutations in the extracellular selectivity filter. Introduction of two negative charges plus a single-residue insertion, to mimic the filter sequence of TRPM5, results in TRPM2 channels that maintain unabated maximal activity for over 1 h, and display altered permeation properties but intact ADP ribose/Ca(2+)-dependent gating. Thus, upon prolonged stimulation, the TRPM2 selectivity filter undergoes a conformational change reminiscent of that accompanying C-type inactivation of voltage-gated K(+) channels. The noninactivating TRPM2 variant will be invaluable for gating studies.

Concepts: Electric charge, Cell membrane, Action potential, Ion channel, Voltage-gated ion channel, Ion channels, Potassium channel, TRPM


As a general rule a rise in pH increases neuronal activity, whereas it is dampened by a fall of pH. Neuronal activity per se also challenges pH homeostasis by the increase of metabolic acid equivalents. Moreover, the negative membrane potential of neurons promotes the intracellular accumulation of protons. Synaptic key players such as glutamate receptors or voltage-gated calcium channels show strong pH dependence and effects of pH gradients on synaptic processes are well known. However, the processes and mechanisms that allow controlling the pH in synaptic structures and how these mechanisms contribute to normal synaptic function are only beginning to be resolved.

Concepts: Neuron, Acid, Proton, Ion channel, Voltage-gated ion channel, Membrane biology, Membrane potential, Voltage-dependent calcium channel


BACE1 and presenilin (PS)/γ-secretase play a major role in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis by regulating amyloid-β peptide generation. We recently showed that these secretases also regulate the processing of voltage-gated sodium channel auxiliary β-subunits and thereby modulate membrane excitability. Here, we report that KCNE1 and KCNE2, auxiliary subunits of voltage-gated potassium channels, undergo sequential cleavage mediated by either α-secretase and PS/γ-secretase or BACE1 and PS/γ-secretase in cells. Elevated α-secretase or BACE1 activities increased C-terminal fragment (CTF) levels of KCNE1 and 2 in human embryonic kidney (HEK293T) and rat neuroblastoma (B104) cells. KCNE-CTFs were then further processed by PS/γ-secretase to KCNE intracellular domains. These KCNE cleavages were specifically blocked by chemical inhibitors of the secretases in the same cell models. We also verified our results in mouse cardiomyocytes and cultured primary neurons. Endogenous KCNE1- and KCNE2-CTF levels increased by 2- to 4-fold on PS/γ-secretase inhibition or BACE1 overexpression in these cells. Furthermore, the elevated BACE1 activity increased KCNE1 processing and shifted KCNE1/KCNQ1 channel activation curve to more positive potentials in HEK cells. KCNE1/KCNQ1 channel is a cardiac potassium channel complex, and the positive shift would lead to a decrease in membrane repolarization during cardiac action potential. Together, these results clearly showed that KCNE1 and KCNE2 cleavages are regulated by BACE1 and PS/γ-secretase activities under physiological conditions. Our results also suggest a functional role of KCNE cleavage in regulating voltage-gated potassium channels.-Sachse, C. C., Kim, Y. H., Agsten, M., Huth, T., Alzheimer, C., Kovacs, D. M., and Kim, D. Y. BACE1 and presenilin/γ-secretase regulate proteolytic processing of KCNE1 and 2, auxiliary subunits of voltage-gated potassium channels.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Ion channels, Voltage-gated potassium channel, Potassium channel, Inward-rectifier potassium ion channel