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J Biol Chem. 2002 Jul 12;277(28):25187-94. Epub 2002 May 6.

A single transmembrane site in the KCNE-encoded proteins controls the specificity of KvLQT1 channel gating.

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  • 1Section of Molecular Cardiology, Departments of Medicine and Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


KCNEs are a family of genes encoding small integral membrane proteins whose role in governing voltage-gated potassium channel gating is emerging. Whether each member of this homologous family interacts with channel proteins in the same manner is unknown; however, it is clear that the functional effect of each KCNE on channel gating is different. The specificity of KCNE1 (minK) and KCNE3 control of activation of the potassium channel KvLQT1 maps to a triplet of amino acids within the KCNE transmembrane domain by chimera analysis. We now define the structural determinants of functional specificity within this triplet. The central amino acid of the triplet (Thr-58 of minK and Val-72 of KCNE3) is essential for the specific control of voltage-dependent channel activation characteristics of both minK and KCNE3. Using site-directed mutations that substitute minK and KCNE3 residues, we determined that a hydroxylated central amino acid is necessary for the slow sigmoidal activation produced by minK. The precise spacing of the hydroxyl group was required for minK-like activation. An aliphatic amino acid substituted at position 58 of minK is capable of reproducing KCNE3-like kinetics and voltage-independent constitutive current activation. The bulk of the central residue is another critical parameter, indicating precise positioning of this portion of the KCNE proteins within the channel complex. An intermediate phenotype produced by several smaller aliphatic-substituted mutants yields conditional voltage independence that is distinct from the voltage-dependent gating process, suggesting that KCNE3 traps the channel in a stable open state. From these results, we propose a model of KCNE-potassium channel interaction where the functional consequence depends on the precise contact at a single amino acid.

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