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Biophys J. Aug 1998; 75(2): 793–809.
PMCID: PMC1299754

Study of ionic currents across a model membrane channel using Brownian dynamics.


Brownian dynamics simulations have been carried out to study ionic currents flowing across a model membrane channel under various conditions. The model channel we use has a cylindrical transmembrane segment that is joined to a catenary vestibule at each side. Two cylindrical reservoirs connected to the channel contain a fixed number of sodium and chloride ions. Under a driving force of 100 mV, the channel is virtually impermeable to sodium ions, owing to the repulsive dielectric force presented to ions by the vestibular wall. When two rings of dipoles, with their negative poles facing the pore lumen, are placed just above and below the constricted channel segment, sodium ions cross the channel. The conductance increases with increasing dipole strength and reaches its maximum rapidly; a further increase in dipole strength does not increase the channel conductance further. When only those ions that acquire a kinetic energy large enough to surmount a barrier are allowed to enter the narrow transmembrane segment, the channel conductance decreases monotonically with the barrier height. This barrier represents those interactions between an ion, water molecules, and the protein wall in the transmembrane segment that are not treated explicitly in the simulation. The conductance obtained from simulations closely matches that obtained from ACh channels when a step potential barrier of 2-3 kTr is placed at the channel neck. The current-voltage relationship obtained with symmetrical solutions is ohmic in the absence of a barrier. The current-voltage curve becomes nonlinear when the 3 kTr barrier is in place. With asymmetrical solutions, the relationship approximates the Goldman equation, with the reversal potential close to that predicted by the Nernst equation. The conductance first increases linearly with concentration and then begins to rise at a slower rate with higher ionic concentration. We discuss the implications of these findings for the transport of ions across the membrane and the structure of ion channels.

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Selected References

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