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J Gen Physiol. 1997 Feb;109(2):191-9.

Role of the S3-S4 linker in Shaker potassium channel activation.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Structural models of voltage-gated channels suggest that flexibility of the S3-S4 linker region may be important in allowing the S4 region to undergo large conformational changes in its putative voltage-sensing function. We report here the initial characterization of 18 mutations in the S3-S4 linker of the Shaker channel, including deletions, insertions, charge change, substitution of prolines, and chimeras replacing the 25-residue Shaker linker with 7- or 9-residue sequences from Shab, Shaw, or Shal. As measured in Xenopus oocytes with a two-microelectrode voltage clamp, each mutant construct yielded robust currents. Changes in the voltage dependence of activation were small, with activation voltage shifts of 13 mV or less. Substitution of linkers from the slowly activating Shab and Shaw channels resulted in a three-to fourfold slowing of activation and deactivation. It is concluded that the S3-S4 linker is unlikely to participate in a large conformational change during channel activation. The linker, which in some channel subfamilies has highly conserved sequences, may however be a determinant of activation kinetics in potassium channels, as previously has been suggested in the case of calcium channels.

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