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Biochemistry. 1999 Aug 10;38(32):10324-35.

Structure of the KcsA potassium channel from Streptomyces lividans: a site-directed spin labeling study of the second transmembrane segment.

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Jules Stein Eye Institute, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles 90095-7008, USA.


KcsA is a prokaryotic potassium channel. The present study employs cysteine scanning mutagenesis and site-directed spin labeling to investigate the structure of the second transmembrane segment (residues 82-120) in functional tetrameric channels reconstituted in lipid bilayers. Spin-spin interactions are observed between nitroxide side chains at symmetry-related sites close to the 4-fold axis of symmetry. To aid in quantitative analysis of these interactions, a new diamagnetic analogue of the nitroxide side chain is used to prepare magnetically dilute samples with constant structure. Using constraints imposed by the spin-spin interactions, a packing model for this segment is deduced that is in excellent agreement with the recently reported crystal structure [Doyle, D., et al. (1998) Science 280, 69-77]. The relatively immobilized state of the nitroxide side chains suggests that the channel is rigid on the electron paramagnetic resonance time scale. Moreover, the poor sulfhydryl reactivity of the cysteine at many locations indicates that the channel is not subject to the low-frequency fluctuations that permit reaction of buried cysteines. At sites expected to be located in the pore, the accessibility of the side chains to collision with O(2) or nickel(II) ethylenediaminediacetate is low. This inaccessibility, together with the generally low mobility of the side chains throughout the sequence, makes it difficult to detect the presence of the pore based on these measurements. However, the presence of a solvated pore can be directly demonstrated using a polarity parameter deduced from the EPR spectra recorded at low temperature. These measurements also reveal the presence of a polarity gradient in the phospholipid bilayer.

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