Journal of Biological Chemistry vol:276 issue:9 pages:6069-72
An important step toward understanding the molecular basis of the functional diversity of pacemaker currents in spontaneously active cells has been the identification of a gene family encoding hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-sensitive cation nonselective (HCN) channels. Three of the four gene products that have been expressed so far give rise to pacemaker channels with distinct activation kinetics and are differentially distributed among the brain, with considerable overlap between some isoforms. This raises the possibility that HCN channels may coassemble to form heteromeric channels in some areas, similar to other K(+) channels. In this study, we have provided evidence for functional heteromerization of HCN1 and HCN2 channels using a concatenated cDNA construct encoding two connected subunits. We have observed that heteromeric channels activate several-fold faster than HCN2 and only a little slower than HCN1. Furthermore, the voltage dependence of activation is more similar to HCN2, whereas the cAMP sensitivity is intermediate between HCN1 and HCN2. This phenotype shows marked similarity to the current arising from coexpressed HCN1 and HCN2 subunits in oocytes and the native pacemaker current in CA1 pyramidal neurons. We suggest that heteromerization may increase the functional diversity beyond the levels expected from the number of HCN channel genes and their differential distribution.