The molecular identification of ion channels in internal membranes has made scant progress compared with the study of plasma membrane ion channels. We investigated a prominent voltage-dependent, cation-selective, and calcium-activated vacuolar ion conductance of 320 pS (yeast vacuolar conductance, YVC1) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Here we report on a gene, the deduced product of which possesses significant homology to the ion channel of the transient receptor potential (TRP) family. By using a combination of gene deletion and re-expression with direct patch clamping of the yeast vacuolar membrane, we show that this yeast TRP-like gene is necessary for the YVC1 conductance. In physiological conditions, tens of micromolar cytoplasmic Ca(2+) activates the YVC1 current carried by cations including Ca(2+) across the vacuolar membrane. Immunodetection of a tagged YVC1 gene product indicates that YVC1 is primarily localized in the vacuole and not other intracellular membranes. Thus we have identified the YVC1 vacuolar/lysosomal cation-channel gene. This report has implications for the function of TRP channels in other organisms and the possible molecular identification of vacuolar/lysosomal ion channels in other eukaryotes.
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