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Nature. 2006 Apr 13;440(7086):959-62.

Toxin-induced conformational changes in a potassium channel revealed by solid-state NMR.

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Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Department of NMR-Based Structural Biology, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


The active site of potassium (K+) channels catalyses the transport of K+ ions across the plasma membrane--similar to the catalytic function of the active site of an enzyme--and is inhibited by toxins from scorpion venom. On the basis of the conserved structures of K+ pore regions and scorpion toxins, detailed structures for the K+ channel-scorpion toxin binding interface have been proposed. In these models and in previous solution-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) studies using detergent-solubilized membrane proteins, scorpion toxins were docked to the extracellular entrance of the K+ channel pore assuming rigid, preformed binding sites. Using high-resolution solid-state NMR spectroscopy, here we show that high-affinity binding of the scorpion toxin kaliotoxin to a chimaeric K+ channel (KcsA-Kv1.3) is associated with significant structural rearrangements in both molecules. Our approach involves a combined analysis of chemical shifts and proton-proton distances and demonstrates that solid-state NMR is a sensitive method for analysing the structure of a membrane protein-inhibitor complex. We propose that structural flexibility of the K+ channel and the toxin represents an important determinant for the high specificity of toxin-K+ channel interactions.

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