Mercury and zinc differentially inhibit shark and human CFTR orthologues: Involvement of shark cysteine 102

Gerhard J. Weber, Ali Poyan Mehr, Jeffrey C. Sirota, Stephen G. Aller, Sarah E. Decker, David C. Dawson, John N. Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


The apical membrane is an important site of mercury toxicity in shark rectal gland tubular cells. We compared the effects of mercury and other thiol-reacting agents on shark CFTR (sCFTR) and human CFTR (hCFTR) chloride channels using two-electrode voltage clamping of cRNA microinjected Xenopus laevis oocytes. Chloride conductance was stimulated by perfusing with 10 μM forskolin (FOR) and 1 mM IBMX, and then thio-reactive species were added. In oocytes expressing sCFTR, FOR + IBMX mean stimulated Cl- conductance was inhibited 69% by 1 μM mercuric chloride and 78% by 5 μM mercuric chloride (IC50 of 0.8 μM). Despite comparable stimulation of conductance, hCFTR was insensitive to 1 μM HgCl2 and maximum inhibition was 15% at the highest concentration used (5 μM). Subsequent exposure to glutathione (GSH) did not reverse the inhibition of sCFTR by mercury, but dithiothreitol (DTT) completely reversed this inhibition. Zinc (50-200 μM) also reversibly inhibited sCFTR (40-75%) but did not significantly inhibit hCFTR. Similar inhibition of sCFTR but not hCFTR was observed with an organic mercurial, p-chloromercuriphenylsulfonic acid (pCMBS). The first membrane spanning domain (MSD1) of sCFTR contains two unique cysteines, C102 and C303. A chimeric construct replacing MSD1 of hCFTR with the corresponding sequence of sCFTR was highly sensitive to mercury. Site-specific mutations introducing the first but not the second shark unique cysteine in hCFTR MSD1 resulted in full sensitivity to mercury. These experiments demonstrate a profound difference in the sensitivity of shark vs. human CFTR to inhibition by three thiol-reactive substances, an effect that involves C102 in the shark orthologue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C793-C801
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006



  • Chloride transport
  • Cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator
  • Dithiothreitol
  • Glutathione
  • Xenopus laevis oocytes
  • p-chloromercuriphenylsulfonic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology

Cite this

Weber, G. J., Mehr, A. P., Sirota, J. C., Aller, S. G., Decker, S. E., Dawson, D. C., & Forrest, J. N. (2006). Mercury and zinc differentially inhibit shark and human CFTR orthologues: Involvement of shark cysteine 102. American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology, 290(3), C793-C801.