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Voltage-Gated Proton Channels

  1. Thomas E. DeCoursey

Published Online: 1 APR 2012

DOI: 10.1002/cphy.c100071

Comprehensive Physiology

Comprehensive Physiology

How to Cite

DeCoursey, T. E. 2012. Voltage-Gated Proton Channels. Comprehensive Physiology. 2:1355–1385.

Author Information

  1. Department of Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 APR 2012

Abstract

Voltage-gated proton channels, HV1, have vaulted from the realm of the esoteric into the forefront of a central question facing ion channel biophysicists, namely, the mechanism by which voltage-dependent gating occurs. This transformation is the result of several factors. Identification of the gene in 2006 revealed that proton channels are homologues of the voltage-sensing domain of most other voltage-gated ion channels. Unique, or at least eccentric, properties of proton channels include dimeric architecture with dual conduction pathways, perfect proton selectivity, a single-channel conductance approximately 103 times smaller than most ion channels, voltage-dependent gating that is strongly modulated by the pH gradient, ΔpH, and potent inhibition by Zn2+ (in many species) but an absence of other potent inhibitors. The recent identification of HV1 in three unicellular marine plankton species has dramatically expanded the phylogenetic family tree. Interest in proton channels in their own right has increased as important physiological roles have been identified in many cells. Proton channels trigger the bioluminescent flash of dinoflagellates, facilitate calcification by coccolithophores, regulate pH-dependent processes in eggs and sperm during fertilization, secrete acid to control the pH of airway fluids, facilitate histamine secretion by basophils, and play a signaling role in facilitating B-cell receptor mediated responses in B-lymphocytes. The most elaborate and best-established functions occur in phagocytes, where proton channels optimize the activity of NADPH oxidase, an important producer of reactive oxygen species. Proton efflux mediated by HV1 balances the charge translocated across the membrane by electrons through NADPH oxidase, minimizes changes in cytoplasmic and phagosomal pH, limits osmotic swelling of the phagosome, and provides substrate H+ for the production of H2O2 and HOCl, reactive oxygen species crucial to killing pathogens. © 2012 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 2:1355-1385, 2012.