Hydration properties of mechanosensitive channel pores define the energetics of gating.

Department of Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
Journal of Physics Condensed Matter (Impact Factor: 2.22). 11/2010; 22(45):454120. DOI: 10.1088/0953-8984/22/45/454120
Source: PubMed

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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