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Nat Commun. 2013;4:2721. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3721.

Sodium and potassium competition in potassium-selective and non-selective channels.

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1] Department of Physiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390-9040, USA [2].


Potassium channels selectively conduct K(+), primarily to the exclusion of Na(+), despite the fact that both ions can bind within the selectivity filter. Here we perform crystallographic titration and single-channel electrophysiology to examine the competition of Na(+) and K(+) binding within the filter of two NaK channel mutants; one is the potassium-selective NaK2K mutant and the other is the non-selective NaK2CNG, a CNG channel pore mimic. With high-resolution structures of these engineered NaK channel constructs, we explicitly describe the changes in K(+) occupancy within the filter upon Na(+) competition by anomalous diffraction. Our results demonstrate that the non-selective NaK2CNG still retains a K(+)-selective site at equilibrium, whereas the NaK2K channel filter maintains two high-affinity K(+) sites. A double-barrier mechanism is proposed to explain K(+) channel selectivity at low K(+) concentrations.

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