Send to

Choose Destination
BMC Evol Biol. 2001;1:14. Epub 2001 Dec 20.

A family of putative Kir potassium channels in prokaryotes.

Author information

Molecular Structure Section, Laboratory of Experimental and Computational Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, 12 South Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892-5567, USA.



Prior to this report, members of the inward rectifier family, or Kir, have been found only in eukaryotes. Like most K+ channels, the pore-forming part of the protein is formed by four identical, or closely related, subunits. Each subunit contains a transmembrane M1-P-M2 motif that is followed by a relatively large C-terminus region unique to Kir's.


In searching unfinished microbial genomes for K+ channels, we identified five sequences in the prokaryote Burkholderia pseudomallei, Burkholderia cepacia, Burkholderia fungorum LB400, Magentospirillum magnetotacticum, and Nostoc Punctiforme genomes that code for proteins whose closest relatives in current sequence databases are eukaryote Kir's. The sequence similarity includes the C-terminus portion of Kir's, for which there are no other close homologs in current prokaryote sequences. Sequences of the pore-forming P and M2 segments of these proteins, which we call KirBac, is intermediate between those of eukaryotic Kir's and several other K+ channel families.


Although KirBac's are more closely related to Kir's than to other families of K+ channels, the intermediate nature of their pore-forming P and M2 segments suggests that they resemble an ancestral precursor to the eukaryotic Kir's. The similarity of KirBac to the bacterial KcsA channel, whose transmembrane structure has been solved, helps align Kir's with KcsA. KirBac's may assist in solving the three-dimensional structure of a member of the Kir family since bacterial membrane proteins are more easily expressed in the quantities necessary for crystallography.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center