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Neuron. 2001 Nov 20;32(4):649-56.

Tight steric closure at the intracellular activation gate of a voltage-gated K(+) channel.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, 220 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


In voltage-gated K(+) channels (Kv), an intracellular gate regulates access from the cytoplasm to the pore by organic channel blockers and by chemical modifiers. But is ion flow itself controlled instead by constriction of the narrow selectivity filter near the extracellular surface? We find that the intracellular gate of Kv channels is capable of regulating access even by the small cations Cd(2+) and Ag(+). It can also exclude small neutral or negatively charged molecules, indicating that the gate operates by steric exclusion rather than electrostatically. Just intracellular to the gated region, channel closure does not restrict access even to very large reagents. Either these Kv channels have a broader inner entrance than seen in the KcsA crystal, even in the closed state, or the region is highly flexible (but nevertheless remains very securely closed nearby).

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