Two mechanisms have been postulated to underlie KCNQ3 homomeric current amplitudes, which are small compared with those of KCNQ4 homomers and KCNQ2/Q3 heteromers. The first involves differential channel expression governed by the D-helix within the C-terminus. The second suggests similar channel surface expression but an intrinsically unstable KCNQ3 pore. Here, we find H 2O2-enhanced oligomerization of KCNQ4 subunits, as reported by nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, at C643 at the end of the D-helix, where KCNQ3 possesses a histidine. However, H2O 2-mediated enhancement of KCNQ4 currents was identical in the C643A mutant, and KCNQ3 H646C produced homomeric or heteromeric (with KCNQ2) currents similar to those of wild-type KCNQ3, ruling out this divergent residue as underlying the small KCNQ3 amplitudes. In KcsA, F103 in S6 is critical for pore-mediated destabilization of the conductive pathway. We found that mutations at the analogous F344 in KCNQ3 dramatically decreased the KCNQ3 currents. Total internal reflection fluorescence imaging revealed only minor differential surface expression among the wild-type and mutant channels. Homology modeling suggests that the effects of the F344 mutants arise from the disruption of the interaction between F344 and A315 in the pore helix. These data support a secondary role of the C-terminus, compared with pore helix-S6 interactions, in governing KCNQ3 current amplitudes.
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