Acid-sensing ion channel (ASIC) channels belong to the family of ligand-gated ion channels known as acid-sensing (proton-gated) ion channels. Only a few activators of ASICs are known. These are exogenous and endogenous molecules that cause a persistent, slowly desensitized current, different from an acid-induced current. Here we describe a novel endogenous agonist of ASICs—peptide nocistatin produced by neuronal cells and neutrophils as a part of prepronociceptin precursor protein. The rat nocistatin evoked currents in X. laevis
oocytes expressing rat ASIC1a, ASIC1b, ASIC2a, and ASIC3 that were very similar in kinetic parameters to the proton-gated response. Detailed characterization of nocistatin action on rASIC1a revealed a proton-like dose-dependence of activation, which was accompanied by a dose-dependent decrease in the sensitivity of the channel to the protons. The toxin mambalgin-2, antagonist of ASIC1a, inhibited nocistatin-induced current, therefore the close similarity of mechanisms for ASIC1a activation by peptide and protons could be suggested. Thus, nocistatin is the first endogenous direct agonist of ASICs. This data could give a key to understanding ASICs activation regulation in the nervous system and also could be used to develop new drugs to treat pathological processes associated with ASICs activation, such as neurodegeneration, inflammation, and pain.
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