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Annu Rev Biophys. 2012;41:157-77. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biophys-101211-113227. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

Bacterial mechanosensitive channels--MscS: evolution's solution to creating sensitivity in function.

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Biomedical Sciences Research Complex, The North Haugh, The University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 9ST, United Kingdom.


The discovery of mechanosensing channels has changed our understanding of bacterial physiology. The mechanosensitive channel of small conductance (MscS) is perhaps the most intensively studied of these channels. MscS has at least two states: closed, which does not allow solutes to exit the cytoplasm, and open, which allows rapid efflux of solvent and solutes. The ability to appropriately open or close the channel (gating) is critical to bacterial survival. We briefly review the science that led to the isolation and identification of MscS. We concentrate on the structure-function relationship of the channel, in particular the structural and biochemical approaches to understanding channel gating. We highlight the troubling discrepancies between the various models developed to understand MscS gating.

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