S-Palmitoylation of the sodium channel Nav1.6 regulates its activity and neuronal excitability

Yanling Pan, Yucheng Xiao, Zifan Pei, Theodore R. Cummins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


S-Palmitoylation is a reversible post-translational lipid modification that dynamically regulates protein functions. Voltagegated sodium channels are subjected to S-palmitoylation and exhibit altered functions in different S-palmitoylation states. Our aim was to investigate whether and how S-palmitoylation regulates Nav1.6 channel function and to identify S-palmitoylation sites that can potentially be pharmacologically targeted. Acyl-biotin exchange assay showed that Nav1.6 is modified by S-palmitoylation in the mouse brain and in a Nav1.6 stable HEK 293 cell line. Using whole-cell voltage clamp, we discovered that enhancing S-palmitoylation with palmitic acid increases Nav1.6 current, whereas blocking S-palmitoylation with 2-bromopalmitate reduces Nav1.6 current and shifts the steady-state inactivation in the hyperpolarizing direction. Three S-palmitoylation sites (Cys1169, Cys1170, and Cys1978) were identified. These sites differentially modulate distinct Nav1.6 properties. Interestingly, Cys1978 is exclusive to Nav1.6 among all Nav isoforms and is evolutionally conserved in Nav1.6 among most species. Cys1978 S-palmitoylation regulates current amplitude uniquely in Nav1.6. Furthermore, we showed that eliminating S-palmitoylation at specific sites alters Nav1.6-mediated excitability in dorsal root ganglion neurons. Therefore, our study reveals S-palmitoylation as a potential isoform-specific mechanism to modulate Nav activity and neuronal excitability in physiological and diseased conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6151-6164
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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