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Biophys J. 2012 May 2;102(9):2049-59. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.03.050.

The molecular mechanism by which PIP(2) opens the intracellular G-loop gate of a Kir3.1 channel.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, VA, USA.


Inwardly rectifying potassium (Kir) channels are characterized by a long pore comprised of continuous transmembrane and cytosolic portions. A high-resolution structure of a Kir3.1 chimera revealed the presence of the cytosolic (G-loop) gate captured in the closed or open conformations. Here, we conducted molecular-dynamics simulations of these two channel states in the presence and absence of phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate (PIP(2)), a phospholipid that is known to gate Kir channels. Simulations of the closed state with PIP(2) revealed an intermediate state between the closed and open conformations involving direct transient interactions with PIP(2), as well as a network of transitional inter- and intrasubunit interactions. Key elements in the G-loop gating transition involved a PIP(2)-driven movement of the N-terminus and C-linker that removed constraining intermolecular interactions and led to CD-loop stabilization of the G-loop gate in the open state. To our knowledge, this is the first dynamic molecular view of PIP(2)-induced channel gating that is consistent with existing experimental data.

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