Dopamine negatively modulates the NCA ion channels in C. elegans

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The NALCN/NCA ion channel is a cation channel related to voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels. NALCN has been reported to be a sodium leak channel with a conserved role in establishing neuronal resting membrane potential, but its precise cellular role and regulation are unclear. The Caenorhabditis elegans orthologs of NALCN, NCA-1 and NCA-2, act in premotor interneurons to regulate motor circuit activity that sustains locomotion. Recently we found that NCA-1 and NCA-2 are activated by a signal transduction pathway acting downstream of the heterotrimeric G protein Gqand the small GTPase Rho. Through a forward genetic screen, here we identify the GPCR kinase GRK-2 as a new player affecting signaling through the Gq-Rho-NCA pathway. Using structure-function analysis, we find that the GPCR phosphorylation and membrane association domains of GRK-2 are required for its function. Genetic epistasis experiments suggest that GRK-2 acts on the D2-like dopamine receptor DOP-3 to inhibit Gosignaling and positively modulate NCA-1 and NCA-2 activity. Through cell-specific rescuing experiments, we find that GRK-2 and DOP-3 act in premotor interneurons to modulate NCA channel function. Finally, we demonstrate that dopamine, through DOP-3, negatively regulates NCA activity. Thus, this study identifies a pathway by which dopamine modulates the activity of the NCA channels.




Topalidou, I., Cooper, K., Pereira, L., & Ailion, M. (2017). Dopamine negatively modulates the NCA ion channels in C. elegans. PLoS Genetics, 13(10).

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