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J Biol Phys. 2014 Mar;40(2):109-19. doi: 10.1007/s10867-013-9338-4. Epub 2014 Jan 26.

Multi-ion versus single-ion conduction mechanisms can yield current rectification in biological ion channels.

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Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia,


There is clear evidence that the net magnitude of negative charge at the intracellular end of inwardly rectifying potassium channels helps to generate an asymmetry in the magnitude of the current that will pass in each direction. However, a complete understanding of the physical mechanism that links these charges to current rectification has yet to be obtained. Using Brownian dynamics, we compare the conduction mechanism and binding sites in rectifying and non-rectifying channel models. We find that in our models, rectification is a consequence of asymmetry in the hydrophobicity and charge of the pore lining. As a consequence, inward conduction can occur by a multi-ion conduction mechanism. However, outward conduction is restricted, since there are fewer ions at the intracellular entrance and outwardly moving ions must cross the pore on their own. We pose the question as to whether the same mechanism could be at play in inwardly rectifying potassium channels.

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