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TMEM16A is a widely expressed Ca2+-activated Cl- channel that regulates crucial physiological functions including fluid secretion, neuronal excitability, and smooth muscle contraction. There is a critical need to understand the molecular mechanisms of TMEM16A gating and regulation. However, high-resolution TMEM16A structures have failed to reveal an activated state with an unobstructed permeation pathway even with saturating Ca2+. This has been attributed to the requirement of PIP2 for preventing TMEM16A desensitization. Here, atomistic simulations show that specific binding of PIP2 to TMEM16A can lead to spontaneous opening of the permeation pathway in the Ca2+-bound state. The predicted activated state is highly consistent with a wide range of mutagenesis and functional data. It yields a maximal Cl- conductance of similar to 1 pS, similar to experimental estimates, and recapitulates the selectivity of larger SCN- over Cl-. The resulting molecular mechanism of activation provides a basis for understanding the interplay of multiple signals in controlling TMEM16A channel function. Chen and Jia investigate the synergistic regulating role of Ca2+ binding and the signaling lipid PIP2 in TMEM16A channel gating. Their study is significant as it provides new insights into the activated state of TMEM16A and highlights an example of functional importance of lipids in regulating membrane-associated proteins.







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National Institutes of HealthUnited States Department of Health & Human ServicesNational Institutes of Health (NIH) - USA [R01 HL142301]