Hydration properties of mechanosensitive channel pores define the energetics of gating.
ABSTRACT Opening of ion channels directly by tension in the surrounding membrane appears to be the most ancient and simple mechanism of gating. Bacterial mechanosensitive channels MscL and MscS are the best-studied tension-gated nanopores, yet the key physical factors that define their gating are still hotly debated. Here we present estimations, simulations and experimental results showing that hydration of the pore might be one of the major parameters defining the thermodynamics and kinetics of mechanosensitive channel gating. We associate closing of channel pores with complete dehydration of the hydrophobic gate (occlusion by 'vapor lock') and formation of two water-vapor interfaces above and below the constriction. The opening path is the expansion of these interfaces, ultimately leading to wetting of the hydrophobic pore, which does not appear to be the exact reverse of the closing path, thus producing hysteresis. We discuss specifically the role of polar groups (glycines) buried in narrow closed conformations but exposed in the open states that change the wetting characteristics of the pore lining and stabilize conductive states of the channels.
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Article: Hydrophobic Gating in Ion Channels[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Biological ion channels are nanoscale transmembrane pores. When water and ions are enclosed within the narrow confines of a sub-nanometer hydrophobic pore, they exhibit behavior not evident from macroscopic descriptions. At this nanoscopic level, the unfavorable interaction between the lining of a hydrophobic pore and water may lead to stochastic liquid-vapor transitions. These transient vapor states are 'dewetted' i.e. effectively devoid of water molecules within all, or part of the pore, thus leading to an energetic barrier to ion conduction. This process, termed 'hydrophobic gating', was first observed in molecular dynamics simulations of model nanopores, where the principles underlying hydrophobic gating (i.e. changes in diameter, polarity, or transmembrane voltage) have now been extensively validated. Computational, structural and functional studies now indicate that biological ion channels may also exploit hydrophobic gating to regulate ion flow within their pores. Here we review the evidence for this process, and propose that this unusual behavior of water represents an increasingly important element in understanding the relationship between ion channel structure and function.Journal of Molecular Biology 08/2014; 427(1). DOI:10.1016/j.jmb.2014.07.030 · 3.96 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Recent X-ray crystal structures of the two-pore domain (K2P) family of potassium channels have revealed a unique structural architecture at the point where the cytoplasmic bundle-crossing gate is found in most other tetrameric K(+) channels. However, despite the apparently open nature of the inner pore in the TWIK-1 (K2P1/KCNK1) crystal structure, the reasons underlying its low levels of functional activity remain unclear. In this study, we use a combination of molecular dynamics simulations and functional validation to demonstrate that TWIK-1 possesses a hydrophobic barrier deep within the inner pore, and that stochastic dewetting of this hydrophobic constriction acts as a major barrier to ion conduction. These results not only provide an important insight into the mechanisms which control TWIK-1 channel activity, but also have important implications for our understanding of how ion permeation may be controlled in similar ion channels and pores.Nature Communications 07/2014; 5:4377. DOI:10.1038/ncomms5377 · 10.74 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Complex biological systems are intimately linked to their environment, a very crowded and equally complex solution compartmentalized by fluid membranes. Modeling such systems remains challenging and requires a suitable representation of these solutions and their interfaces. Here, we focus on particle-based modeling at an atomistic level using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. As an example, we discuss important steps in modeling the solution chemistry of an ion channel of the ligand-gated ion channel receptor family, a major target of many drugs including anesthetics and addiction treatments. The bacterial pentameric ligand-gated ion channel (pLGIC) called GLIC provides clues about the functional importance of solvation, in particular for mechanisms such as permeation and gating. We present some current challenges along with promising novel modeling approaches.Pure and Applied Chemistry 01/2012; 85(1):1-13. DOI:10.1351/PAC-CON-12-04-10 · 3.11 Impact Factor