Acid-sensing ion channels are ligand-gated cation channels, gated by extracellular H(+). H(+) is the simplest ligand possible, and whereas for larger ligands that gate ion channels complex binding sites in the three-dimensional structure of the proteins have to be assumed, H(+) could in principle gate a channel by titration of a single amino acid. Experimental evidence suggests a more complex situation, however. For example, it has been shown that extracellular Ca(2+) ions compete with H(+); probably Ca(2+) ions bound to the extracellular loop of ASICs stabilize the closed state of the channel and have to be displaced before the channel can open. In such a scheme, amino acids contributing to Ca(2+) binding would also be candidates contributing to H(+) gating. In this study we systematically screened more than 40 conserved, charged amino acids in the extracellular region of ASIC1a for a possible contribution to H(+) gating. We identified four amino acids where substitution strongly affects H(+) gating: Glu(63), His(72)/His(73), and Asp(78). These amino acids are highly conserved among H(+)-sensitive ASICs and are candidates for the "H(+) sensor" of ASICs.