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Structure function and pharmacology of calcium-activated chloride channels: Anoctamins and Bestrophins (AnoBest)
Start date: Feb 1, 2014, End date: Jan 31, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Calcium-activated chloride channels (CaCCs) play key roles in a range of physiological processes such as the control of membrane excitability, photoreception and epithelial secretion. Although the importance of these channels has been recognized for more than 30 years their molecular identity remained obscure. The recent discovery of two protein families encoding for CaCCs, Anoctamins and Bestrophins, was a scientific breakthrough that has provided first insight into two novel ion channel architectures. Within this proposal we aim to determine the first high resolution structures of members of both families and study their functional behavior by an interdisciplinary approach combining biochemistry, X-ray crystallography and electrophysiology. The structural investigation of eukaryotic membrane proteins is extremely challenging and will require us to investigate large numbers of candidates to single out family members with superior biochemical properties. During the last year we have made large progress in this direction. By screening numerous eukaryotic Anoctamins and prokaryotic Bestrophins we have identified well-behaved proteins for both families, which were successfully scaled-up and purified. Additional family members will be identified within the course of the project. For these stable proteins we plan to grow crystals diffracting to high resolution and to proceed with structure determination. With first structural information in hand we will perform detailed functional studies using electrophysiology and complementary biophysical techniques to gain mechanistic insight into ion permeation and gating. As the pharmacology of both families is still in its infancy we will in later stages also engage in the identification and characterization of inhibitors and activators of Anoctamins and Bestrophins to open up a field that may ultimately lead to the discovery of novel therapeutic strategies targeting calcium-activated chloride channels.
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