Cooperative transition between open and closed conformations in potassium channels.
ABSTRACT: Potassium (K+) ion channels switch between open and closed conformations. The nature of this important transition was revealed by comparing the X-ray crystal structures of the MthK channel from Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum, obtained in its open conformation, and the KcsA channel from Streptomyces lividans, obtained in its closed conformation. We analyzed the dynamic characteristics and energetics of these homotetrameric structures in order to study the role of the intersubunit cooperativity in this transition. For this, elastic models and in silico alanine-scanning mutagenesis were used, respectively. Reassuringly, the calculations manifested motion from the open (closed) towards the closed (open) conformation. The calculations also revealed a network of dynamically and energetically coupled residues. Interestingly, the network suggests coupling between the selectivity filter and the gate, which are located at the two ends of the channel pore. Coupling between these two regions was not observed in calculations that were conducted with the monomer, which emphasizes the importance of the intersubunit interactions within the tetrameric structure for the cooperative gating behavior of the channel.
Project description:Ion channel opening and closing are fundamental to cellular signalling and homeostasis. Gates that control K(+) channel activity were found both at an intracellular pore constriction and within the selectivity filter near the extracellular side but the specific location of the gate that opens Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels has remained elusive. Using the Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum homologue (MthK) and a stopped-flow fluorometric assay for fast channel activation, we show that intracellular quaternary ammonium blockers bind to closed MthK channels. Since the blockers are known to bind inside a central channel cavity, past the intracellular entryway, the gate must be within the selectivity filter. Furthermore, the blockers access the closed channel slower than the open channel, suggesting that the intracellular entryway narrows upon pore closure, without preventing access of either the blockers or the smaller K(+). Thus, Ca(2+)-dependent gating in MthK occurs at the selectivity filter with coupled movement of the intracellular helices.
Project description:Understanding how ion channels open and close their pores is crucial for comprehending their physiological roles. We used intracellular quaternary ammonium blockers, electrophysiology and X-ray crystallography to locate the voltage-dependent gate in MthK potassium channels from Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum. Blockers bind in an aqueous cavity between two putative gates: an intracellular gate and the selectivity filter. Thus, these blockers directly probe gate location--an intracellular gate will prevent binding when closed, whereas a selectivity filter gate will always allow binding. Kinetic analysis of tetrabutylammonium block of single MthK channels combined with X-ray crystallographic analysis of the pore with tetrabutyl antimony unequivocally determined that the voltage-dependent gate, like the C-type inactivation gate in eukaryotic channels, is located at the selectivity filter. State-dependent binding kinetics suggest that MthK inactivation leads to conformational changes within the cavity and intracellular pore entrance.
Project description:Large conductance, voltage- and Ca2+-activated K+ (BK(Ca)) channels regulate blood vessel tone, synaptic transmission, and hearing owing to dual activation by membrane depolarization and intracellular Ca2+. Similar to an archeon Ca2+-activated K+ channel, MthK, each of four alpha subunits of BK(Ca) may contain two cytosolic RCK domains and eight of which may form a gating ring. The structure of the MthK channel suggests that the RCK domains reorient with one another upon Ca2+ binding to change the gating ring conformation and open the activation gate. Here we report that the conformational changes of the NH2 terminus of RCK1 (AC region) modulate BK(Ca) gating. Such modulation depends on Ca2+ occupancy and activation states, but is not directly related to the Ca2+ binding sites. These results demonstrate that AC region is important in the allosteric coupling between Ca2+ binding and channel opening. Thus, the conformational changes of the AC region within each RCK domain is likely to be an important step in addition to the reorientation of RCK domains leading to the opening of the BK(Ca) activation gate. Our observations are consistent with a mechanism for Ca2+-dependent activation of BK(Ca) channels such that the AC region inhibits channel activation when the channel is at the closed state in the absence of Ca2+; Ca2+ binding and depolarization relieve this inhibition.
Project description:Inactivation is the process by which ion channels terminate ion flux through their pores while the opening stimulus is still present1. In neurons, inactivation of both sodium and potassium channels is crucial for the generation of action potentials and regulation of firing frequency1,2. A cytoplasmic domain of either the channel or an accessory subunit is thought to plug the open pore to inactivate the channel via a 'ball-and-chain' mechanism3-7. Here we use cryo-electron microscopy to identify the molecular gating mechanism in calcium-activated potassium channels by obtaining structures of the MthK channel from Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum-a purely calcium-gated and inactivating channel-in a lipid environment. In the absence of Ca2+, we obtained a single structure in a closed state, which was shown by atomistic simulations to be highly flexible in lipid bilayers at ambient temperature, with large rocking motions of the gating ring and bending of pore-lining helices. In Ca2+-bound conditions, we obtained several structures, including multiple open-inactivated conformations, further indication of a highly dynamic protein. These different channel conformations are distinguished by rocking of the gating rings with respect to the transmembrane region, indicating symmetry breakage across the channel. Furthermore, in all conformations displaying open channel pores, the N terminus of one subunit of the channel tetramer sticks into the pore and plugs it, with free energy simulations showing that this is a strong interaction. Deletion of this N terminus leads to functionally non-inactivating channels and structures of open states without a pore plug, indicating that this previously unresolved N-terminal peptide is responsible for a ball-and-chain inactivation mechanism.
Project description:The Hv1 voltage-gated proton channel is a dimeric complex consisting of two voltage-sensing domains (VSDs), each containing a gated proton permeation pathway. Dimerization is controlled by a cytoplasmic coiled-coil domain. The transitions from the closed to the open state in the two VSDs are known to occur cooperatively; however, the underlying mechanism is poorly understood. Intersubunit interfaces play a critical role in allosteric processes; but, such interfaces have not been determined in the open Hv1 channel. Here we show that 2-guanidinothiazole derivatives block the two Hv1 VSDs in a cooperative way, and use one of the compounds as a probe of allosteric coupling between open subunits. We find that the extracellular ends of the first transmembrane segments of the VSDs form the intersubunit interface that mediates coupling between binding sites, while the coiled-coil domain does not directly participate in the process. We also find strong evidence that the channel's proton selectivity filter controls blocker binding cooperativity.
Project description:We report the crystal structure of the nonselective cation channel NaK from Bacillus cereus at a resolution of 1.6 A. The structure reveals the intracellular gate in an open state, as opposed to the closed form reported previously, making NaK the only channel for which the three-dimensional structures of both conformations are known. Channel opening follows a conserved mechanism of inner helix bending using a flexible glycine residue, the gating hinge, seen in MthK and most other tetrameric cation channels. Additionally, distinct inter and intrasubunit rearrangements involved in channel gating are seen and characterized for the first time along with inner helix twisting motions. Furthermore, we identify a residue deeper within the cavity of the channel pore, Phe92, which is likely to form a constriction point within the open pore, restricting ion flux through the channel. Mutating this residue to alanine causes a subsequent increase in ion-conduction rates as measured by (86)Rb flux assays. The structures of both the open and closed conformations of the NaK channel correlate well with those of equivalent K(+) channel conformations, namely MthK and KcsA, respectively.
Project description:The bacterial potassium channel KcsA, which has been crystallized in several conformations, offers an ideal model to investigate activation gating of ion channels. In this study, essential dynamics simulations are applied to obtain insights into the transition pathways and the energy profile of KcsA pore gating. In agreement with previous hypotheses, our simulations reveal a two phasic activation gating process. In the first phase, local structural rearrangements in TM2 are observed leading to an intermediate channel conformation, followed by large structural rearrangements leading to full opening of KcsA. Conformational changes of a highly conserved phenylalanine, F114, at the bundle crossing region are crucial for the transition from a closed to an intermediate state. 3.9 µs umbrella sampling calculations reveal that there are two well-defined energy barriers dividing closed, intermediate, and open channel states. In agreement with mutational studies, the closed state was found to be energetically more favorable compared to the open state. Further, the simulations provide new insights into the dynamical coupling effects of F103 between the activation gate and the selectivity filter. Investigations on individual subunits support cooperativity of subunits during activation gating.
Project description:Crystallographic studies of K(+) channels in the closed (KcsA) and open (MthK) states suggest that Gly(99) (KcsA numbering) in the inner helices serves as a gating hinge during channel activation. However, some P-loop channels have larger residues in the corresponding position. The comparison of x-ray structures of KcsA and MthK shows that channel activation alters backbone torsions and helical H-bonds in residues 95-105. Importantly, the changes in Gly(99) are not the largest ones. This raises questions about the mechanism of conformational changes upon channel gating. In this work, we have built a model of the open KcsA using MthK as a template and simulated opening and closing of KcsA by constraining C-ends of the inner helices at a gradually changing distance from the pore axis without restraining mobility of the helices along the axis. At each imposed distance, the energy was Monte Carlo-minimized. The channel-opening and channel-closing trajectories arrived to the structures in which the backbone geometry was close to that seen in MthK and KcsA, respectively. In the channel-opening trajectory, the constraints-induced lateral forces caused kinks at midpoints of the inner helices between Val(97) and Gly(104) but did not destroy interdomain contacts, the pore helices, and the selectivity filter. The simulated activation of the Gly(99)Ala mutant yielded essentially similar results. Analysis of interresidue energies shows that the N-terminal parts of the inner helices form strong attractive contacts with the pore helices and the outer helices. The lateral forces induce kinks at the position where the helix-breaking torque is maximal and the intersegment contacts vanish. This mechanism may be conserved in different P-loop channels.
Project description: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.
Project description:Cyclic nucleotide-sensitive ion channels are molecular pores that open in response to cAMP or cGMP, which are universal second messengers. Binding of a cyclic nucleotide to the carboxyterminal cyclic nucleotide binding domain (CNBD) of these channels is thought to cause a conformational change that promotes channel opening. The C-linker domain, which connects the channel pore to this CNBD, plays an important role in coupling ligand binding to channel opening. Current structural insight into this mechanism mainly derives from X-ray crystal structures of the C-linker/CNBD from hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-modulated (HCN) channels. However, these structures reveal little to no conformational changes upon comparison of the ligand-bound and unbound form. In this study, we take advantage of a recently identified prokaryote ion channel, SthK, which has functional properties that strongly resemble cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels and is activated by cAMP, but not by cGMP. We determined X-ray crystal structures of the C-linker/CNBD of SthK in the presence of cAMP or cGMP. We observe that the structure in complex with cGMP, which is an antagonist, is similar to previously determined HCN channel structures. In contrast, the structure in complex with cAMP, which is an agonist, is in a more open conformation. We observe that the CNBD makes an outward swinging movement, which is accompanied by an opening of the C-linker. This conformation mirrors the open gate structures of the Kv1.2 channel or MthK channel, which suggests that the cAMP-bound C-linker/CNBD from SthK represents an activated conformation. These results provide a structural framework for better understanding cyclic nucleotide modulation of ion channels, including HCN and CNG channels.