Send to

Choose Destination
Cell Mol Life Sci. 2003 Aug;60(8):1581-90.

The potassium channel KcsA and its interaction with the lipid bilayer.

Author information

Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom.


The crystal structure of the K+ channel KcsA explains many features of ion channel function. The selectivity filter corresponds to a narrow region about 12 Along and 3 A wide, lined by carbonyl groups of the peptide backbone, through which a K+ ion can only move ina dehydrated form. The selectivity filter opens into a central, water-filled cavity leading to a gating site on the intracellular side of the channel. The channel is tetrameric, each monomer containing two transmembrane a helices, M1 and M2. Helix M1 faces the lipid bi-layer and helix M2 faces the central channel pore; the M2 helices participate in subunit-subunit interactions. Helices M1 and M2 in each subunit pack as a pair of antiparallel coils with a heptad repeat, but the M2 helices of neighbouring subunits show fewer interactions, crossing at an angle of about -40 degrees. Trp residues at the ends of the transmembrane a helices form clear girdles on the two faces of the membrane, which, together with girdles of charged residues, define a hydrophobic thickness of about 37 A for the channel. Binding constants for phosphatidylcholines to KcsA vary with fatty acyl chain length, the optimum chain length being C22. A phosphatidylcholine with this chain length gives a bilayer of thickness about 34 A in the liquid crystalline phase, matching the hydrophobic thickness of the protein. However, a typical biological membrane has a hydrophobic thickness of about 27 A. Thus either the transmembrane a helices of KcsA are more tilted in the native membrane than they are in the crystal structure, or the channel is under stress in the native membrane. The efficiency of hydrophobic matching between KcsA and the surrounding lipid bilayer is high over the chain length range C10-C24. The channel requires the presence of some anionic lipids for function, and fluorescence quenching studies show the presence of two classes of lipid binding site on KcsA; at one class of site (nonannular sites) anionic phospholipids bind more strongly than phosphatidylcholine, whereas at the other class of site (annular sites) phosphatidylcholines and anionic phospholipids bind with equal affinity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center