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Biophys J. 2019 Aug 20;117(4):751-766. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2019.07.011. Epub 2019 Jul 16.

Voltage-Dependent Profile Structures of a Kv-Channel via Time-Resolved Neutron Interferometry.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Neutron Scattering Division, Neutron Sciences Directorate, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Department of Chemistry, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California.
Department of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Electronic address:


Available experimental techniques cannot determine high-resolution three-dimensional structures of membrane proteins under a transmembrane voltage. Hence, the mechanism by which voltage-gated cation channels couple conformational changes within the four voltage sensor domains, in response to either depolarizing or polarizing transmembrane voltages, to opening or closing of the pore domain's ion channel remains unresolved. Single-membrane specimens, composed of a phospholipid bilayer containing a vectorially oriented voltage-gated K+ channel protein at high in-plane density tethered to the surface of an inorganic multilayer substrate, were developed to allow the application of transmembrane voltages in an electrochemical cell. Time-resolved neutron reflectivity experiments, enhanced by interferometry enabled by the multilayer substrate, were employed to provide directly the low-resolution profile structures of the membrane containing the vectorially oriented voltage-gated K+ channel for the activated, open and deactivated, closed states of the channel under depolarizing and hyperpolarizing transmembrane voltages applied cyclically. The profile structures of these single membranes were dominated by the voltage-gated K+ channel protein because of the high in-plane density. Importantly, the use of neutrons allowed the determination of the voltage-dependent changes in both the profile structure of the membrane and the distribution of water within the profile structure. These two key experimental results were then compared to those predicted by three computational modeling approaches for the activated, open and deactivated, closed states of three different voltage-gated K+ channels in hydrated phospholipid bilayer membrane environments. Of the three modeling approaches investigated, only one state-of-the-art molecular dynamics simulation that directly predicted the response of a voltage-gated K+ channel within a phospholipid bilayer membrane to applied transmembrane voltages by utilizing very long trajectories was found to be in agreement with the two key experimental results provided by the time-resolved neutron interferometry experiments.

[Available on 2020-08-20]

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