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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Apr 23;116(17):8591-8596. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1901381116. Epub 2019 Apr 9.

Large-conductance Ca2+- and voltage-gated K+ channels form and break interactions with membrane lipids during each gating cycle.

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Department of Physiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104;
Center for Molecular Biomedicine, Department of Biophysics, Jena University Hospital, Friedrich Schiller University, D-07745 Jena, Germany.


Membrane depolarization and intracellular Ca2+ promote activation of the large-conductance Ca2+- and voltage-gated (Slo1) big potassium (BK) channel. We examined the physical interactions that stabilize the closed and open conformations of the ion conduction gate of the human Slo1 channel using electrophysiological and computational approaches. The results show that the closed conformation is stabilized by intersubunit ion-ion interactions involving negative residues (E321 and E324) and positive residues (329RKK331) at the cytoplasmic ends of the transmembrane S6 segments ("RKK ring"). When the channel gate is open, the RKK ring is broken and the positive residues instead make electrostatic interactions with nearby membrane lipid oxygen atoms. E321 and E324 are stabilized by water. When the 329RKK331 residues are mutated to hydrophobic amino acids, these residues form even stronger hydrophobic interactions with the lipid tails to promote the open conformation, shifting the voltage dependence of activation to the negative direction by up to 400 mV and stabilizing the selectivity filter region. Thus, the RKK segment forms electrostatic interactions with oxygen atoms from two sources, other amino acid residues (E321/E324), and membrane lipids, depending on the gate status. Each time the channel opens and closes, the aforementioned interactions are formed and broken. This lipid-dependent Slo1 gating may explain how amphipathic signaling molecules and pharmacologically active agents influence the channel activity, and a similar mechanism may be operative in other ion channels.


BK; KCa1.1; Slo1; electrophysiology; molecular dynamics

[Available on 2019-10-09]

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