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J Gen Physiol. 2011 Jul;138(1):49-57. doi: 10.1085/jgp.201110606. Epub 2011 Jun 13.

The pathway and spatial scale for MscS inactivation.

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Department of Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


The mechanosensitive channel of small conductance (MscS) is a bacterial tension-driven osmolyte release valve with homologues in many walled eukaryotic organisms. When stimulated by steps of tension in excised patches, Escherichia coli MscS exhibits transient opening followed by reversible adaptation and then complete inactivation. Here, we study properties of the inactivation transition, which renders MscS nonconductive and tension insensitive. Using special pressure protocols we demonstrate that adaptation and inactivation are sequential processes with opposite tension dependencies. In contrast to many eukaryotic channels, which inactivate from the open state, MscS inactivates primarily from the closed state because full openings by preconditioning pulses do not influence the degree of inactivation, and saturating tensions keeping channels open prevent inactivation. The easily opened A98S mutant lacks inactivation completely, whereas the L111S mutant with a right-shifted activation curve inactivates silently before reaching the threshold for opening. This suggests that opening and inactivation are two independent tension-driven pathways, both starting from the closed state. Analysis of tension dependencies for inactivation and recovery rates estimated the in-plane expansion (ΔA) associated with inactivation as 8.5 nm(2), which is about half of the area change for opening. Given that the interhelical contact between the outer TM1-TM2 pairs and the core TM3s is the force-transmitting path from the periphery to the gate, the determined ΔA now can be used as a constraining parameter for the models of the inactivated state in which the lipid-facing TM1-TM2 pairs are displaced and uncoupled from the gate.

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