Functional characterization reveals that zebrafish CFTR prefers to occupy closed channel conformations

Jingyao Zhang, Ying Chun Yu, Jiunn Tyng Yeh, Tzyh Chang Hwang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), the culprit behind the genetic disease cystic fibrosis (CF), is a phosphorylation-activated, but ATP-gated anion channel. Studies of human CFTR over the past two decades have provided an in-depth understanding of how CFTR works as an ion channel despite its structural resemblance to ABC transporters. Recently-solved cryo-EM structures of unphosphorylated human and zebrafish CFTR (hCFTR and zCFTR), as well as phosphorylated ATP-bound zebrafish and human CFTR offer an unprecedented opportunity to understand CFTR’s function at a molecular level. Interestingly, despite millions of years of phylogenetic distance between human and zebrafish, the structures of zCFTR and hCFTR exhibit remarkable similarities. In the current study, we characterized biophysical and pharmacological properties of zCFTR with the patch-clamp technique, and showed surprisingly very different functional properties between these two orthologs. First, while hCFTR has a single-channel conductance of 8.4 pS with a linear I-V curve, zCFTR shows an inwardly-rectified I-V relationship with a single-channel conductance of ~3.5 pS. Second, single-channel gating behaviors of phosphorylated zCFTR are very different from those of hCFTR, featuring a very low open probability P o (0.03 ± 0.02, vs. ~0.50 for hCFTR) with exceedingly long closed events and brief openings. In addition, unlike hCFTR where each open burst is clearly defined with rare short-lived flickery closures, the open bursts of zCFTR are not easily resolved. Third, although abolishing ATP hydrolysis by replacing the catalytic glutamate with glutamine (i.e., E1372Q) drastically prolongs the open bursts defined by the macroscopic relaxation analysis in zCFTR, the P o within a “locked-open” burst of E1372Q-zCFTR is only ~ 0.35 (vs. P o > 0.94 in E1371Q-hCFTR). Collectively, our data not only provide a reasonable explanation for the unexpected closed-state structure of phosphorylated E1372Q-zCFTR with a canonical ATP-bound dimer of the nucleotide binding domains (NBDs), but also implicate significant structural and functional differences between these two evolutionarily distant orthologs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0209862
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


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