Two TMEM16 family members, TMEM16A and TMEM16F, have different ion transport properties. Upon activation by intracellular Ca2+, TMEM16A-a Ca2+-activated Cl- channel-is more selective for anions than cations, whereas TMEM16F-a phospholipid scramblase-appears to transport both cations and anions. Under saturating Ca2+ conditions, the current-voltage (I-V) relationships of these two proteins also differ; the I-V curve of TMEM16A is linear, while that of TMEM16F is outwardly rectifying. We previously found that mutating a positively charged lysine residue (K584) in the ion transport pathway to glutamine converted the linear I-V curve of TMEM16A to an outwardly rectifying curve. Interestingly, the corresponding residue in the outwardly rectifying TMEM16F is also a glutamine (Q559). Here, we examine the ion transport functions of TMEM16 molecules and compare the roles of K584 of TMEM16A and Q559 of TMEM16F in controlling the rectification of their respective I-V curves. We find that rectification of TMEM16A is regulated electrostatically by the side-chain charge on the residue at position 584, whereas the charge on residue 559 in TMEM16F has little effect. Unexpectedly, mutation of Q559 to aromatic amino acid residues significantly alters outward rectification in TMEM16F. These same mutants show reduced Ca2+-induced current rundown (or desensitization) compared with wild-type TMEM16F. A mutant that removes the rundown of TMEM16F could facilitate the study of ion transport mechanisms in this phospholipid scramblase in the same way that a CLC-0 mutant in which inactivation (or closure of the slow gate) is suppressed was used in our previous studies.
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