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Genetic and functional studies have confirmed an important role for the voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.9 in human pain disorders. However, low functional expression of Nav1.9 in heterologous systems (e.g. in human embryonic kidney 293 (HEK293) cells) has hampered studies of its biophysical and pharmacological properties and the development of high-throughput assays for drug development targeting this channel. The mechanistic basis for the low level of Nav1.9 currents in heterologous expression systems is not understood. Here, we implemented a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the mechanisms that govern functional Nav1.9 expression. Recombinant expression of a series of Nav1.9-Nav1.7 C-terminal chimeras in HEK293 cells identified a 49-amino-acid-long motif in the C terminus of the two channels that regulates expression levels of these chimeras. We confirmed the critical role of this motif in the context of a full-length channel chimera, Nav1.9-Ct49aaNav1.7, which displayed significantly increased current density in HEK293 cells while largely retaining the characteristic Nav1.9-gating properties. High-resolution live microscopy indicated that the newly identified C-terminal motif dramatically increases the number of channels on the plasma membrane of HEK293 cells. Molecular modeling results suggested that this motif is exposed on the cytoplasmic face of the folded C terminus, where it might interact with other channel partners. These findings reveal that a 49-residue-long motif in Nav1.9 regulates channel trafficking to the plasma membrane.


Daria V Sizova, Jianying Huang, Elizabeth J Akin, Mark Estacion, Carolina Gomis-Perez, Stephen G Waxman, Sulayman D Dib-Hajj. A 49-residue sequence motif in the C terminus of Nav1.9 regulates trafficking of the channel to the plasma membrane. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2020 Jan 24;295(4):1077-1090

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PMID: 31822564

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