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Biophys J. 2005 Nov;89(5):3079-92. Epub 2005 Aug 12.

Homology modeling identifies C-terminal residues that contribute to the Ca2+ sensitivity of a BKCa channel.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada.


Activation of BK(Ca) channels by direct Ca(2+) binding and membrane depolarization occur via independent and additive molecular processes. The "calcium bowl" domain is critically involved in Ca(2+)-dependent gating, and we have hypothesized that a sequence within this domain may resemble an EF hand motif. Using a homology modeling strategy, it was observed that a single Ca(2+) ion may be coordinated by the oxygen-containing side chains of residues within the calcium bowl (i.e., (912)ELVNDTNVQFLD(923)). To examine these predictions directly, alanine-substituted BK(Ca) channel mutants were expressed in HEK 293 cells and the voltage and Ca(2+) dependence of macroscopic currents were examined in inside-out membrane patches. Over the range of 1-10 microM free Ca(2+), single point mutations (i.e., E912A and D923A) produced rightward shifts in the steady-state conductance-voltage relations, whereas the mutants N918A or Q920A had no effect on Ca(2+)-dependent gating. The double mutant E912A/D923A displayed a synergistic shift in Ca(2+)-sensitive gating, as well as altered kinetics of current activation/deactivation. In the presence of 1, 10, and 80 mM cytosolic Mg(2+), this double mutation significantly reduced the Ca(2+)-induced free energy change associated with channel activation. Finally, mutations that altered sensitivity of the holo-channel to Ca(2+) also reduced direct (45)Ca binding to the calcium bowl domain expressed as a bacterial fusion protein. These findings, along with other recent data, are considered in the context of the calcium bowl's high affinity Ca(2+) sensor and the known properties of EF hands.

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