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Nature. 2017 Jan 5;541(7635):52-57. doi: 10.1038/nature20775. Epub 2016 Dec 14.

Structural basis for gating the high-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel.

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Rockefeller University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10065, USA.


The precise control of an ion channel gate by environmental stimuli is crucial for the fulfilment of its biological role. The gate in Slo1 K+ channels is regulated by two separate stimuli, intracellular Ca2+ concentration and membrane voltage. Slo1 is thus central to understanding the relationship between intracellular Ca2+ and membrane excitability. Here we present the Slo1 structure from Aplysia californica in the absence of Ca2+ and compare it with the Ca2+-bound channel. We show that Ca2+ binding at two unique binding sites per subunit stabilizes an expanded conformation of the Ca2+ sensor gating ring. These conformational changes are propagated from the gating ring to the pore through covalent linkers and through protein interfaces formed between the gating ring and the voltage sensors. The gating ring and the voltage sensors are directly connected through these interfaces, which allow membrane voltage to regulate gating of the pore by influencing the Ca2+ sensors.

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