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J Gen Physiol. 2004 Feb;123(2):135-54.

Membrane tension accelerates rate-limiting voltage-dependent activation and slow inactivation steps in a Shaker channel.

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  • 1Ottawa Health Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1Y 4E9.


A classical voltage-sensitive channel is tension sensitive--the kinetics of Shaker and S3-S4 linker deletion mutants change with membrane stretch (Tabarean, I.V., and C.E. Morris. 2002. Biophys. J. 82:2982-2994.). Does stretch distort the channel protein, producing novel channel states, or, more interestingly, are existing transitions inherently tension sensitive? We examined stretch and voltage dependence of mutant 5aa, whose ultra-simple activation (Gonzalez, C., E. Rosenman, F. Bezanilla, O. Alvarez, and R. Latorre. 2000. J. Gen. Physiol. 115:193-208.) and temporally matched activation and slow inactivation were ideal for these studies. We focused on macroscopic patch current parameters related to elementary channel transitions: maximum slope and delay of current rise, and time constant of current decline. Stretch altered the magnitude of these parameters, but not, or minimally, their voltage dependence. Maximum slope and delay versus voltage with and without stretch as well as current rising phases were well described by expressions derived for an irreversible four-step activation model, indicating there is no separate stretch-activated opening pathway. This model, with slow inactivation added, explains most of our data. From this we infer that the voltage-dependent activation path is inherently stretch sensitive. Simulated currents for schemes with additional activation steps were compared against datasets; this showed that generally, additional complexity was not called for. Because the voltage sensitivities of activation and inactivation differ, it was not possible to substitute depolarization for stretch so as to produce the same overall PO time course. What we found, however, was that at a given voltage, stretch-accelerated current rise and decline almost identically--normalized current traces with and without stretch could be matched by a rescaling of time. Rate-limitation of the current falling phase by activation was ruled out. We hypothesize, therefore, that stretch-induced bilayer decompression facilitates an in-plane expansion of the protein in both activation and inactivation. Dynamic structural models of this class of channels will need to take into account the inherent mechanosensitivity of voltage-dependent gating.

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