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J Theor Biol. 2009 Sep 7;260(1):137-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2009.05.019. Epub 2009 May 31.

Voltage and frequency dependence of prestin-associated charge transfer.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Membrane protein prestin is a critical component of the motor complex that generates forces and dimensional changes in cells in response to changes in the cell membrane potential. In its native cochlear outer hair cell, prestin is crucial to the amplification and frequency selectivity of the mammalian ear up to frequencies of tens of kHz. Other cells transfected with prestin acquire voltage-dependent properties similar to those of the native cell. The protein performance is critically dependent on chloride ions, and intrinsic protein charges also play a role. We propose an electro-diffusion model to reveal the frequency and voltage dependence of electric charge transfer by prestin. The movement of the combined charge (i.e., anion and protein charges) across the membrane is described with a Fokker-Planck equation coupled to a kinetic equation that describes the binding of chloride ions to prestin. We found a voltage- and frequency-dependent phase shift between the transferred charge and the applied electric field that determines capacitive and resistive components of the transferred charge. The phase shift monotonically decreases from zero to -90 degrees as a function of frequency. The capacitive component as a function of voltage is bell-shaped, and decreases with frequency. The resistive component is bell-shaped for both voltage and frequency. The capacitive and resistive components are similar to experimental measurements of charge transfer at high frequencies. The revealed nature of the transferred charge can help reconcile the high-frequency electrical and mechanical observations associated with prestin, and it is important for further analysis of the structure and function of this protein.

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