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Nature. 2000 Feb 24;403(6772):898-901.

Three distinct and sequential steps in the release of sodium ions by the Na+/K+-ATPase.

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  • 1The Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA.


The Na+/K+ pump, a P-type ion-motive ATPase, exports three sodium ions and then imports two potassium ions in each transport cycle. Ions on one side of the membrane bind to sites within the protein and become temporarily occluded (trapped within the protein) before being released to the other side, but details of these occlusion and de-occlusion transitions remain obscure for all P-type ATPases. If it is deprived of potassium ions, the Na+/K+ pump is restricted to sodium translocation steps, at least one involving charge movement through the membrane's electric fields. Changes in membrane potential alter the rate of such electrogenic reactions and so shift the distribution of enzyme conformations. Here we use high-speed voltage jumps to initiate this redistribution and show that the resulting pre-steady-state charge movements relax in three identifiable phases, apparently reflecting de-occlusion and release of the three sodium ions. Reciprocal relationships among the sizes of these three charge components show that the three sodium ions are de-occluded and released to the extracellular solution one at a time, in a strict order.

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