Communication between N terminus and loop2 tunes Orai activation.J Biol Chem. 2018 01 26; 293(4):1271-1285.JB
Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels constitute the major Ca2+ entry pathway into the cell. They are fully reconstituted via intermembrane coupling of the Ca2+-selective Orai channel and the Ca2+-sensing protein STIM1. In addition to the Orai C terminus, the main coupling site for STIM1, the Orai N terminus is indispensable for Orai channel gating. Although the extended transmembrane Orai N-terminal region (Orai1 amino acids 73-91; Orai3 amino acids 48-65) is fully conserved in the Orai1 and Orai3 isoforms, Orai3 tolerates larger N-terminal truncations than Orai1 in retaining store-operated activation. In an attempt to uncover the reason for these isoform-specific structural requirements, we analyzed a series of Orai mutants and chimeras. We discovered that it was not the N termini, but the loop2 regions connecting TM2 and TM3 of Orai1 and Orai3 that featured distinct properties, which explained the different, isoform-specific behavior of Orai N-truncation mutants. Atomic force microscopy studies and MD simulations suggested that the remaining N-terminal portion in the non-functional Orai1 N-truncation mutants formed new, inhibitory interactions with the Orai1-loop2 regions, but not with Orai3-loop2. Such a loop2 swap restored activation of the N-truncation Orai1 mutants. To mimic interactions between the N terminus and loop2 in full-length Orai1 channels, we induced close proximity of the N terminus and loop2 via cysteine cross-linking, which actually caused significant inhibition of STIM1-mediated Orai currents. In aggregate, maintenance of Orai activation required not only the conserved N-terminal region but also permissive communication of the Orai N terminus and loop2 in an isoform-specific manner.