A lysine residue from an extracellular turret switches the ion preference in a Cav3 T-Type channel from calcium to sodium ions
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Cav3 T-type calcium channels from great pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis have a selectivity-filter ring of five acidic residues, EE(D)DD. Splice variants with exons 12b or 12a spanning the extracellular loop between the outer helix IIS5 and membrane-descending pore helix IIP1 (IIS5-P1) in Domain II of the pore module possess calcium selectivity or dominant sodium permeability, respectively. Here, we use AlphaFold2 neural network software to predict that a lysine residue in exon 12a is salt-bridged to the aspartate residue immediately C terminal to the second-domain glutamate in the selectivity filter. Exon 12b has a similar folding but with an alanine residue in place of lysine in exon 12a. We express LCav3 channels with mutated exons Ala-12b-Lys and Lys-12a-Ala and demonstrate that they switch the ion preference to high sodium permeability and calcium selectivity, respectively. We propose that in the calcium-selective variants, a calcium ion chelated between Domain II selectivity-filter glutamate and aspartate is knocked-out by the incoming calcium ion in the process of calcium permeation, whereas sodium ions are repelled. The aspartate is neutralized by the lysine residue in the sodium-permeant variants, allowing for sodium permeation through the selectivity-filter ring of four negatively charged residues akin to the prokaryotic sodium channels with four glutamates in the selectivity filter. The evolutionary adaptation in invertebrate LCav3 channels highlight the involvement of a key, ubiquitous aspartate, "a calcium beacon" of sorts in the outer pore of Domain II, as determinative for the calcium ion preference over sodium ions through eukaryotic Cav1, Cav2, and Cav3 channels.
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