Aquaporin-6 (AQP6) has recently been identified as an intracellular vesicle water channel with anion permeability that is activated by low pH or HgCl2. Here we present direct evidence of AQP6 channel gating using patch clamp techniques. Cell-attached patch recordings of AQP6 expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes indicated that AQP6 is a gated channel with intermediate conductance (49 picosiemens in 100 mm NaCl) induced by 10 microm HgCl2. Current-voltage relationships were linear, and open probability was fairly constant at any given voltage, indicating that Hg2+-induced AQP6 conductance is voltage-independent. The excised outside-out patch recording revealed rapid activation of AQP6 channels immediately after application of 10 microm HgCl2. Reduction of both Na+ and Cl- concentrations from 100 to 30 mm did not shift the reversal potential of the Hg2+-induced AQP6 current, suggesting that Na+ is as permeable as Cl-. The Na+ permeability of Hg2+-induced AQP6 current was further demonstrated by 22Na+ influx measurements. Site-directed mutagenesis identified Cys-155 and Cys-190 residues as the sites of Hg2+ activation both for water permeability and ion conductance. The Hill coefficient from the concentration-response curve for Hg2+-induced conductance was 1.1 +/- 0.3. These data provide the first evidence of AQP6 channel gating at a single-channel level and suggest that each monomer contains the pore region for ions based on the number of Hg2+-binding sites and the kinetics of Hg2+-activation of the channel.
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