Ether-à-go-go family voltage-gated K+ channels evolved in an ancestral metazoan and functionally diversified in a cnidarian-bilaterian ancestor

Xiaofan Li, Alexandra S. Martinson, Michael J. Layden, Fortunay H. Diatta, Anna P. Sberna, David K. Simmons, Mark Q. Martindale, Timothy J. Jegla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


We examined the evolutionary origins of the ether-à-go-go (EAG) family of voltage-gated K+ channels, which have a strong influence on the excitability of neurons. The bilaterian EAG family comprises three gene subfamilies (Eag, Erg and Elk) distinguished by sequence conservation and functional properties. Searches of genome sequence indicate that EAG channels are metazoan specific, appearing first in ctenophores. However, phylogenetic analysis including two EAG family channels from the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi indicates that the diversification of the Eag, Erg and Elk gene subfamilies occurred in a cnidarian/bilaterian ancestor after divergence from ctenophores. Erg channel function is highly conserved between cnidarians and mammals. Here we show that Eag and Elk channels from the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis (NvEag and NvElk) also share high functional conservation with mammalian channels. NvEag, like bilaterian Eag channels, has rapid kinetics, whereas NvElk activates at extremely hyperpolarized voltages, which is characteristic of Elk channels. Potent inhibition of voltage activation by extracellular protons is conserved between mammalian and Nematostella EAG channels. However, characteristic inhibition of voltage activation by Mg2+ in Eag channels and Ca2+ in Erg channels is reduced in Nematostella because of mutation of a highly conserved aspartate residue in the voltage sensor. This mutation may preserve sub-threshold activation of Nematostella Eag and Erg channels in a high divalent cation environment. mRNA in situ hybridization of EAG channels in Nematostella suggests that they are differentially expressed in distinct cell types. Most notable is the expression of NvEag in cnidocytes, a cnidarian-specific stinging cell thought to be a neuronal subtype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-536
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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