Structure and Function of Epithelial Sodium Channels

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Epithelial sodium channels (ENaCs) are members of the ubiquitous ENaC/DEG superfamily of trimeric voltage-independent, Na+-selective and amiloride-sensitive ion channels. Highly expressed in the kidneys, ENaCs assemble as heterotrimers that harbor an exquisitely Na+-selective pore that is critical in the fine tuning of Na+ and K+ balance. ENaC function is regulated at multiple levels from transcription of the ENaC genes, to the trafficking and the proteolytic activation of the ion channel. Abnormal regulation in the functional activity of ENaCs contributes importantly to human disease, and especially to hypertension (high blood pressure), a condition that affects about 1 billion people worldwide. Furthermore, although proteolysis is integral in the activation of ENaCs, aberrant proteolysis of ENaCs contributes to NaCl retention that characterizes nephrotic syndrome. Despite such clinical importance, detail into the mechanism of ENaC function at atomic resolution has remained elusive and the lack of x-ray crystal structures of ENaC has been a barrier to progress in the field. The objective of this research application is to resolve molecula mechanisms underlying ENaC assembly, gating, ion permeation, and allosteric modulation utilizing methods of x-ray crystallography, electrophysiology, and other biochemical and biophysical assays. At present, there are no methods for producing large quantities of heterotrimeric ENaCs for biochemical and biophysical experiments. The aim of this research application is to develop the technology to express milligram quantities of ENaC that demonstrate a homogenous population suitable for functional and structural assays. Central to this application is to determine the x-ray crystal structures of ENaC at different physiological states and these studies will provide the first atomic-level presentation of these Na+-selective channels in their resting, closed and open states, thus contributing to the understanding of the molecular basis of ENaC function. More importantly, these structural studies will serve as blueprints for future therapeutic strategies.
Effective start/end date9/19/138/31/18


  • National Institutes of Health: $385,000.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $370,960.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $385,000.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $385,000.00


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