Small vertical movement of a K+ channel voltage sensor measured with luminescence energy transfer.
ABSTRACT: Voltage-gated ion channels open and close in response to voltage changes across electrically excitable cell membranes. Voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels are homotetramers with each subunit constructed from six transmembrane segments, S1-S6 (ref. 2). The voltage-sensing domain (segments S1-S4) contains charged arginine residues on S4 that move across the membrane electric field, modulating channel open probability. Understanding the physical movements of this voltage sensor is of fundamental importance and is the subject of controversy. Recently, the crystal structure of the KvAP channel motivated an unconventional 'paddle model' of S4 charge movement, indicating that the segments S3b and S4 might move as a unit through the lipid bilayer with a large (15-20-A) transmembrane displacement. Here we show that the voltage-sensor segments do not undergo significant transmembrane translation. We tested the movement of these segments in functional Shaker K+ channels by using luminescence resonance energy transfer to measure distances between the voltage sensors and a pore-bound scorpion toxin. Our results are consistent with a 2-A vertical displacement of S4, not the large excursion predicted by the paddle model. This small movement supports an alternative model in which the protein shapes the electric field profile, focusing it across a narrow region of S4 (ref. 6).
Project description:Voltage-sensor domains (VSDs) are specialized transmembrane segments that confer voltage sensitivity to many proteins such as ion channels and enzymes. The activities of these domains are highly dependent on both the chemical properties and the physical properties of the surrounding membrane environment. To learn about VSD-lipid interactions, we used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine the structure and phospholipid interface of the VSD from the voltage-dependent K(+) channel KvAP (prokaryotic Kv from Aeropyrum pernix). The solution structure of the KvAP VSD solubilized within phospholipid micelles is similar to a previously determined crystal structure solubilized by a nonionic detergent and complexed with an antibody fragment. The differences observed include a previously unidentified short amphipathic ?-helix that precedes the first transmembrane helix and a subtle rigid-body repositioning of the S3-S4 voltage-sensor paddle. Using (15)N relaxation experiments, we show that much of the VSD, including the pronounced kink in S3 and the S3-S4 paddle, is relatively rigid on the picosecond-to-nanosecond timescale. In contrast, the kink in S3 is mobile on the microsecond-to-millisecond timescale and may act as a hinge in the movement of the paddle during channel gating. We characterized the VSD-phospholipid micelle interactions using nuclear Overhauser effect spectroscopy and showed that the micelle uniformly coats the KvAP VSD and approximates the chemical environment of a phospholipid bilayer. Using paramagnetically labeled phospholipids, we show that bilayer-forming lipids interact with the S3 and S4 helices more strongly than with S1 and S2.
Project description:Voltage-gated ion channels underlie rapid electric signaling in excitable cells. Electrophysiological studies have established that the N-terminal half of the fourth transmembrane segment ((NT)S4) of these channels is the primary voltage sensor, whereas crystallographic studies have shown that (NT)S4 is not located within a proteinaceous pore. Rather, (NT)S4 and the C-terminal half of S3 ((CT)S3 or S3b) form a helix-turn-helix motif, termed the voltage-sensor paddle. This unexpected structural finding raises two fundamental questions: does the paddle motif also exist in voltage-gated channels in a biological membrane, and, if so, what is its function in voltage gating? Here, we provide evidence that the paddle motif exists in the open state of Drosophila Shaker voltage-gated K(+) channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes and that (CT)S3 acts as an extracellular hydrophobic 'stabilizer' for (NT)S4, thus biasing the gating chemical equilibrium toward the open state.
Project description:Voltage-gated potassium channels are six-transmembrane (S1-S6) proteins that form a central pore domain (4 x S5-S6) surrounded by four voltage sensor domains (S1-S4), which detect changes in membrane voltage and control pore opening. Upon depolarization, the S4 segments move outward carrying charged residues across the membrane field, thereby leading to the opening of the pore. The mechanism of S4 motion is controversial. We have investigated how S4 moves relative to the pore domain in the prototypical Shaker potassium channel. We introduced pairs of cysteines, one in S4 and the other in S5, and examined proximity changes between each pair of cysteines during activation, using Cd2+ and copper-phenanthroline, which crosslink the cysteines with metal and disulphide bridges, respectively. Modelling of the results suggests a novel mechanism: in the resting state, the top of the S3b-S4 voltage sensor paddle lies close to the top of S5 of the adjacent subunit, but moves towards the top of S5 of its own subunit during depolarization--this motion is accompanied by a reorientation of S4 charges to the extracellular phase.
Project description:Voltage-dependent gating of ion channels is essential for electrical signaling in excitable cells, but the structural basis for voltage sensor function is unknown. We constructed high-resolution structural models of resting, intermediate, and activated states of the voltage-sensing domain of the bacterial sodium channel NaChBac using the Rosetta modeling method, crystal structures of related channels, and experimental data showing state-dependent interactions between the gating charge-carrying arginines in the S4 segment and negatively charged residues in neighboring transmembrane segments. The resulting structural models illustrate a network of ionic and hydrogen-bonding interactions that are made sequentially by the gating charges as they move out under the influence of the electric field. The S4 segment slides 6-8 Å outward through a narrow groove formed by the S1, S2, and S3 segments, rotates ?30°, and tilts sideways at a pivot point formed by a highly conserved hydrophobic region near the middle of the voltage sensor. The S4 segment has a 3(10)-helical conformation in the narrow inner gating pore, which allows linear movement of the gating charges across the inner one-half of the membrane. Conformational changes of the intracellular one-half of S4 during activation are rigidly coupled to lateral movement of the S4-S5 linker, which could induce movement of the S5 and S6 segments and open the intracellular gate of the pore. We confirmed the validity of these structural models by comparing with a high-resolution structure of a NaChBac homolog and showing predicted molecular interactions of hydrophobic residues in the S4 segment in disulfide-locking studies.
Project description:Voltage sensor domains (VSDs) are structurally and functionally conserved protein modules that consist of four transmembrane segments (S1-S4) and confer voltage sensitivity to many ion channels. Depolarization is sensed by VSD-charged residues residing in the membrane field, inducing VSD activation that facilitates channel gating. S4 is typically thought to be the principal functional component of the VSD because it carries, in most channels, a large portion of the VSD gating charge. The VSDs of large-conductance, voltage- and Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels are peculiar in that more gating charge is carried by transmembrane segments other than S4. Considering its "decentralized" distribution of voltage-sensing residues, we probed the BK(Ca) VSD for evidence of cooperativity between charge-carrying segments S2 and S4. We achieved this by optically tracking their activation by using voltage clamp fluorometry, in channels with intact voltage sensors and charge-neutralized mutants. The results from these experiments indicate that S2 and S4 possess distinct voltage dependence, but functionally interact, such that the effective valence of one segment is affected by charge neutralization in the other. Statistical-mechanical modeling of the experimental findings using allosteric interactions demonstrates two mechanisms (mechanical coupling and dynamic focusing of the membrane electric field) that are compatible with the observed cross-segment effects of charge neutralization.
Project description:Voltage-activated ion channels open and close in response to changes in voltage, a property that is essential for generating nerve impulses. Studies on voltage-activated potassium (Kv) channels show that voltage-sensor activation is sensitive to the composition of lipids in the surrounding membrane. Here we explore the interaction of lipids with S1-S4 voltage-sensing domains and find that the conversion of the membrane lipid sphingomyelin to ceramide-1-phosphate alters voltage-sensor activation in an S1-S4 voltage-sensing protein lacking an associated pore domain, and that the S3b-S4 paddle motif determines the effects of lipid modification on Kv channels. Using tarantula toxins that bind to paddle motifs within the membrane, we identify mutations in the paddle motif that weaken toxin binding by disrupting lipid-paddle interactions. Our results suggest that lipids bind to voltage-sensing domains and demonstrate that the pharmacological sensitivities of voltage-activated ion channels are influenced by the surrounding lipid membrane.
Project description:The movement of positively charged S4 segments through the electric field drives the voltage-dependent gating of ion channels. Studies of prokaryotic sodium channels provide a mechanistic view of activation facilitated by electrostatic interactions of negatively charged residues in S1 and S2 segments, with positive counterparts in the S4 segment. In mammalian sodium channels, S4 segments promote domain-specific functions that include activation and several forms of inactivation. We tested the idea that S1-S3 countercharges regulate eukaryotic sodium channel functions, including fast inactivation. Using structural data provided by bacterial channels, we constructed homology models of the S1-S4 voltage sensor module (VSM) for each domain of the mammalian skeletal muscle sodium channel hNaV1.4. These show that side chains of putative countercharges in hNaV1.4 are oriented toward the positive charge complement of S4. We used mutagenesis to define the roles of conserved residues in the extracellular negative charge cluster (ENC), hydrophobic charge region (HCR), and intracellular negative charge cluster (INC). Activation was inhibited with charge-reversing VSM mutations in domains I-III. Charge reversal of ENC residues in domains III (E1051R, D1069K) and IV (E1373K, N1389K) destabilized fast inactivation by decreasing its probability, slowing entry, and accelerating recovery. Several INC mutations increased inactivation from closed states and slowed recovery. Our results extend the functional characterization of VSM countercharges to fast inactivation, and support the premise that these residues play a critical role in domain-specific gating transitions for a mammalian sodium channel.
Project description:Electrical signaling in biology depends upon a unique electromechanical transduction process mediated by the S4 segments of voltage-gated ion channels. These transmembrane segments are driven outward by the force of the electric field on positively charged amino acid residues termed "gating charges," which are positioned at three-residue intervals in the S4 transmembrane segment, and this movement is coupled to opening of the pore. Here, we use the disulfide-locking method to demonstrate sequential ion pair formation between the fourth gating charge in the S4 segment (R4) and two acidic residues in the S2 segment during activation. R4 interacts first with E70 at the intracellular end of the S2 segment and then with D60 near the extracellular end. Analysis with the Rosetta Membrane method reveals the 3-D structures of the gating pore as these ion pairs are formed sequentially to catalyze the S4 transmembrane movement required for voltage-dependent activation. Our results directly demonstrate sequential ion pair formation that is an essential feature of the sliding helix model of voltage sensor function but is not compatible with the other widely discussed gating models.
Project description:Voltage-sensor domains couple membrane potential to conformational changes in voltage-gated ion channels and phosphatases. Highly coevolved acidic and aromatic side chains assist the transfer of cationic side chains across the transmembrane electric field during voltage sensing. We investigated the functional contribution of negative electrostatic potentials from these residues to channel gating and voltage sensing with unnatural amino acid mutagenesis, electrophysiology, voltage-clamp fluorometry and ab initio calculations. The data show that neutralization of two conserved acidic side chains in transmembrane segments S2 and S3, namely Glu293 and Asp316 in Shaker potassium channels, has little functional effect on conductance-voltage relationships, although Glu293 appears to catalyze S4 movement. Our results suggest that neither Glu293 nor Asp316 engages in electrostatic state-dependent charge-charge interactions with S4, likely because they occupy, and possibly help create, a water-filled vestibule.
Project description:The transduction of transmembrane electric fields into protein motion has an essential role in the generation and propagation of cellular signals. Voltage-sensing domains (VSDs) carry out these functions through reorientations of positive charges in the S4 helix. Here, we determined crystal structures of the Ciona intestinalis VSD (Ci-VSD) in putatively active and resting conformations. S4 undergoes an ~5-Å displacement along its main axis, accompanied by an ~60° rotation. This movement is stabilized by an exchange in countercharge partners in helices S1 and S3 that generates an estimated net charge transfer of ~1 eo. Gating charges move relative to a ''hydrophobic gasket' that electrically divides intra- and extracellular compartments. EPR spectroscopy confirms the limited nature of S4 movement in a membrane environment. These results provide an explicit mechanism for voltage sensing and set the basis for electromechanical coupling in voltage-dependent enzymes and ion channels.