Heteromeric acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) composed of ASIC2b and ASIC1a display novel channel properties and contribute to acidosis-induced neuronal death

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


External Institution(s)

  • Ohio State University


Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9723-9734
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number26
StatusPublished - Jun 29 2011


Acid-sensing ion channel (ASIC) subunits associate to form homomeric or heteromeric proton-gated ion channels in neurons throughout the nervous system. The ASIC1a subunit plays an important role in establishing the kinetics of proton-gated currents in the CNS, and activation of ASIC1a homomeric channels induces neuronal death after local acidosis that accompanies cerebral ischemia. The ASIC2b subunit is expressed in the brain in a pattern that overlaps ASIC1a, yet the contribution of ASIC2b has remained elusive. We find that coexpression of ASIC2b with ASIC1a in Xenopus oocytes results in novel proton-gated currents with properties distinct from ASIC1a homomeric channels. In particular, ASIC2b/1a heteromeric channels are inhibited by the nonselective potassium channel blockers tetraethyl-ammonium and barium. In addition, steady-state desensitization is induced at more basic pH values, and Big Dynorphin sensitivity is enhanced in these unique heteromeric channels. Cultured hippocampal neurons show proton-gated currents consistent with ASIC2b contribution, and these currents are lacking in neurons from mice with an ACCN1 (ASIC2) gene disruption. Finally, we find that these ASIC2b/1a heteromeric channels contribute to acidosis-induced neuronal death. Together, our results show that ASIC2b confers unique properties to heteromeric channels in central neurons. Furthermore, these data indicate that ASIC2, like ASIC1, plays a role in acidosis-induced neuronal death and implicate the ASIC2b/1a subtype as a novel pharmacological target to prevent neuronal injury after stroke.