Conversion of aquaporin 6 from an anion channel to a water-selective channel by a single amino acid substitution
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Aquaporin (AQP) 6 belongs to the aquaporin water channel family. Unlike other aquaporins, AQP6 functions not as a water channel but as an anion-selective channel. Single-channel analyses have shown AQP6 to flicker rapidly between closed and open status. The atomic structure of AQP1 and amino acid sequence alignments of the mammalian aquaporins reveal two well conserved glycine residues: Gly-57 in transmembrane helix (TM) 2 and Gly-173 in TM5 reside at the contact point where the two helices cross in human AQP1. Uniquely, all known mammalian orthologs of AQP6 have an asparagine residue (Asn-60) at the position corresponding to Gly-57. Here we show that a single residue substitution (N60G in rat AQP6) totally eliminates the anion permeability of AQP6 when expressed in Xenopus oocytes, but the N60G oocytes exhibit significantly higher osmotic water permeability under basal conditions. Replacement of the glycine at this site in AQP0, AQP1, and AQP2 blocked expression of the mutants at the oocyte plasma membrane. We propose that the asparagine residue at the contact point between TM2 and TM5 in AQP6 may function as a teeter board needed for rapid structural oscillations during anion permeation.
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