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J Gen Physiol. 2010 Mar;135(3):261-74. doi: 10.1085/jgp.200910288.

A homology model of the pore domain of a voltage-gated calcium channel is consistent with available SCAM data.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8N 3Z5, Canada.


In the absence of x-ray structures of calcium channels, their homology models are used to rationalize experimental data and design new experiments. The modeling relies on sequence alignments between calcium and potassium channels. Zhen et al. (2005. J. Gen. Physiol. doi:10.1085/jgp.200509292) used the substituted cysteine accessibility method (SCAM) to identify pore-lining residues in the Ca(v)2.1 channel and concluded that their data are inconsistent with the symmetric architecture of the pore domain and published sequence alignments between calcium and potassium channels. Here, we have built K(v)1.2-based models of the Ca(v)2.1 channel with 2-(trimethylammonium)ethyl methanethiosulfonate (MTSET)-modified engineered cysteines and used Monte Carlo energy minimizations to predict their energetically optimal orientations. We found that depending on the position of an engineered cysteine in S6 and S5 helices, the ammonium group in the long flexible MTSET-modified side chain can orient into the inner pore, an interface between domains (repeats), or an interface between S5 and S6 helices. Different local environments of equivalent positions in the four repeats can lead to different SCAM results. The reported current inhibition by MTSET generally decreases with the predicted distances between the ammonium nitrogen and the pore axis. A possible explanation for outliers of this correlation is suggested. Our calculations rationalize the SCAM data, validate one of several published sequence alignments between calcium and potassium channels, and suggest similar spatial dispositions of S5 and S6 helices in voltage-gated potassium and calcium channels.

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