Abstract: CLC proteins are a nine-member gene family of Cl- channels that have diverse roles in the plasma membrane and in intracellular organelles. The recent structure determination of bacterial CLC homologues by Dutzler et al. was a breakthrough for the structure-function analysis of CLC channels. This review describes the mechanisms of inhibition of muscle type CLC channels by two classes of small organic substances: 9-anthracene carboxylic acid (9AC) and p-chlorophenoxy propionic acid (CPP). Both substances block muscle type CLC channels (CLC-0 and CLC-1) from the intracellular side. For CPP, one could show that it inhibits the individual protopores of the double-barrelled channel. A major difference between the two types of blockers is the extremely slow binding- and unbinding-kinetics of 9AC (time scale of min), compared to that of CPP block (time scale of s), while the general mechanism of block seems to be quite similar. In the case of the chiral CPP only the Si enantiomer is effective. Both substances exhibit a strongly voltage-dependent block with strong inhibition at negative voltages and relief of block at depolarizing potentials at which the channels tend to open maximally. A quantitative kinetic model was developed for the CPP block of CLC-0 in which the closed state has a much larger affinity for CPP than the open state and opening of drug-bound channels is greatly slowed compared to drug-free channels. First experiments with mutated CLC-0 channels and with derivatives of CPP strongly support the pore localization of the CPP binding site. This work provides the basis for the use of these small organic substances as tools to investigate the pharmacological properties of mammalian CLC channels guided by the crystallographic structure of bacterial CLC homologues. They might also turn out to be useful to obtain information about the intricate coupling of gating and permeation that characterizes CLC channels.
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