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J Gen Physiol. 2004 Oct;124(4):349-56. Epub 2004 Sep 13.

Gating of the bacterial sodium channel, NaChBac: voltage-dependent charge movement and gating currents.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7115, USA.


The bacterial sodium channel, NaChBac, from Bacillus halodurans provides an excellent model to study structure-function relationships of voltage-gated ion channels. It can be expressed in mammalian cells for functional studies as well as in bacterial cultures as starting material for protein purification for fine biochemical and biophysical studies. Macroscopic functional properties of NaChBac have been described previously (Ren, D., B. Navarro, H. Xu, L. Yue, Q. Shi, and D.E. Clapham. 2001. Science. 294:2372-2375). In this study, we report gating current properties of NaChBac expressed in COS-1 cells. Upon depolarization of the membrane, gating currents appeared as upward inflections preceding the ionic currents. Gating currents were detectable at -90 mV while holding at -150 mV. Charge-voltage (Q-V) curves showed sigmoidal dependence on voltage with gating charge saturating at -10 mV. Charge movement was shifted by -22 mV relative to the conductance-voltage curve, indicating the presence of more than one closed state. Consistent with this was the Cole-Moore shift of 533 micros observed for a change in preconditioning voltage from -160 to -80 mV. The total gating charge was estimated to be 16 elementary charges per channel. Charge immobilization caused by prolonged depolarization was also observed; Q-V curves were shifted by approximately -60 mV to hyperpolarized potentials when cells were held at 0 mV. The kinetic properties of NaChBac were simulated by simultaneous fit of sodium currents at various voltages to a sequential kinetic model. Gating current kinetics predicted from ionic current experiments resembled the experimental data, indicating that gating currents are coupled to activation of NaChBac and confirming the assertion that this channel undergoes several transitions between closed states before channel opening. The results indicate that NaChBac has several closed states with voltage-dependent transitions between them realized by translocation of gating charge that causes activation of the channel.

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