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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Apr 21;106(16):6626-31. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808045106. Epub 2009 Apr 6.

Electromechanical coupling in the membranes of Shaker-transfected HEK cells.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


Membranes flex with changes in transmembrane potential as a result of changes in interfacial tension, the Lippman effect. We studied the membrane electromotility of Shaker K(+)-transfected HEK-293 cells in real time by using combined patch-clamp atomic force microscopy. In the voltage range where the channels were closed, Shaker expression had little effect on electromotility relative to wild-type cells. Depolarization between -120 and -40 mV resulted in a linear upward cantilever deflection equivalent to an increase in membrane tension. However, when depolarized sufficiently for channel opening, the electromotility saturated and only recovered over 10 s of milliseconds. This remarkable loss of motility was associated with channel opening, not ionic flux or movement of the voltage sensors. The IL mutant of Shaker, in which the voltage dependence of channel opening but not sensor movement is shifted to more positive potentials, caused the loss of electromotility saturation also to shift to more positive potentials. The temporary loss of electromotility associated with channel opening is probably caused by local buckling of the bilayer as the inner half of the channel expands as expected from X-ray structural data.

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