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Open Access Research article

Cloning and expression of a zebrafish SCN1B ortholog and identification of a species-specific splice variant

Amanda J Fein, Laurence S Meadows, Chunling Chen, Emily A Slat and Lori L Isom*

Author Affiliations

Department of Pharmacology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0632, USA

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:226  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-226

Published: 10 July 2007

Abstract

Background

Voltage-gated Na+ channel β1 (Scn1b) subunits are multi-functional proteins that play roles in current modulation, channel cell surface expression, cell adhesion, cell migration, and neurite outgrowth. We have shown previously that β1 modulates electrical excitability in vivo using a mouse model. Scn1b null mice exhibit spontaneous seizures and ataxia, slowed action potential conduction, decreased numbers of nodes of Ranvier in myelinated axons, alterations in nodal architecture, and differences in Na+ channel α subunit localization. The early death of these mice at postnatal day 19, however, make them a challenging model system to study. As a first step toward development of an alternative model to investigate the physiological roles of β1 subunits in vivo we cloned two β1-like subunit cDNAs from D. rerio.

Results

Two β1-like subunit mRNAs from zebrafish, scn1ba_tv1 and scn1ba_tv2, arise from alternative splicing of scn1ba. The deduced amino acid sequences of Scn1ba_tv1 and Scn1ba_tv2 are identical except for their C-terminal domains. The C-terminus of Scn1ba_tv1 contains a tyrosine residue similar to that found to be critical for ankyrin association and Na+ channel modulation in mammalian β1. In contrast, Scn1ba_tv2 contains a unique, species-specific C-terminal domain that does not contain a tyrosine. Immunohistochemical analysis shows that, while the expression patterns of Scn1ba_tv1 and Scn1ba_tv2 overlap in some areas of the brain, retina, spinal cord, and skeletal muscle, only Scn1ba_tv1 is expressed in optic nerve where its staining pattern suggests nodal expression. Both scn1ba splice forms modulate Na+ currents expressed by zebrafish scn8aa, resulting in shifts in channel gating mode, increased current amplitude, negative shifts in the voltage dependence of current activation and inactivation, and increases in the rate of recovery from inactivation, similar to the function of mammalian β1 subunits. In contrast to mammalian β1, however, neither zebrafish subunit produces a complete shift to the fast gating mode and neither subunit produces complete channel inactivation or recovery from inactivation.

Conclusion

These data add to our understanding of structure-function relationships in Na+ channel β1 subunits and establish zebrafish as an ideal system in which to determine the contribution of scn1ba to electrical excitability in vivo.