Stephan A Pless

University of British Columbia - Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Are you Stephan A Pless?

Claim your profile

Publications (32)149.42 Total impact

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Voltage-gated sodium (NaV) channels mediate electrical excitability in animals. Despite strong sequence conservation among the voltage-sensor domains (VSDs) of closely related voltage-gated potassium (KV) and NaV channels, the functional contributions of individual side chains in Nav VSDs remain largely enigmatic. To this end, natural and unnatural side chain substitutions were made in the S2 hydrophobic core (HC), the extracellular negative charge cluster (ENC), and the intracellular negative charge cluster (INC) of the four VSDs of the skeletal muscle sodium channel isoform (NaV1.4). The results show that the highly conserved aromatic side chain constituting the S2 HC makes distinct functional contributions in each of the four NaV domains. No obvious cation-pi interaction exists with nearby S4 charges in any domain, and natural and unnatural mutations at these aromatic sites produce functional phenotypes that are different from those observed previously in Kv VSDs. In contrast, and similar to results obtained with Kv channels, individually neutralizing acidic side chains with synthetic derivatives and with natural amino acid substitutions in the INC had little or no effect on the voltage dependence of activation in any of the four domains. Interestingly, countercharge was found to play an important functional role in the ENC of DI and DII, but not DIII and DIV. These results suggest that electrostatic interactions with S4 gating charges are unlikely in the INC and only relevant in the ENC of DI and DII. Collectively, our data highlight domain-specific functional contributions of highly conserved side chains in NaV VSDs.
    The Journal of General Physiology 05/2014; 143(5):645-56. · 4.73 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Timothy Lynagh, Stephan A Pless
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cys-loop receptors are ligand-gated ion channels that are activated by a structurally diverse array of neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, serotonin, glycine, and GABA. After the term "chemoreceptor" emerged over 100 years ago, there was some wait until affinity labeling, molecular cloning, functional studies, and X-ray crystallography experiments identified the extracellular interface of adjacent subunits as the principal site of agonist binding. The question of how subtle differences at and around agonist-binding sites of different Cys-loop receptors can accommodate transmitters as chemically diverse as glycine and serotonin has been subject to intense research over the last three decades. This review outlines the functional diversity and current structural understanding of agonist-binding sites, including those of invertebrate Cys-loop receptors. Together, this provides a framework to understand the atomic determinants involved in how these valuable therapeutic targets recognize and bind their ligands.
    Frontiers in Physiology 01/2014; 5:160.
  • Source
  • Source
  • Stephan A Pless, Christopher A Ahern
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: G protein-coupled receptors and ion channels couple a wide range of external stimuli to cellular growth and division, metabolism, motility, and a myriad of intra- and intercellular signaling pathways. G protein-coupled receptors initiate complex, interrelated downstream signaling cascades, whereas rapid ionic flux through channels directly supports membrane excitability and mediates cellular functions through second messengers. Because of these characteristics, these ubiquitous transmembrane proteins are valuable therapeutic targets and have provided fertile ground for the development of leading-edge synthetic and chemical biological approaches. Here we summarize recent advances in the use of site-directed incorporation of unnatural amino acids and chemical probes to study ligand-receptor interactions, determine the location of binding sites, and examine the downstream conformational consequences of ligand binding in G protein-coupled receptors and ion channels.
    Annual Review of Pharmacology 01/2013; 53:211-29. · 21.54 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Biophysical Journal 01/2013; 104(2):122-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Voltage-gated potassium channels elicit membrane hyperpolarization through voltage-sensor domains that regulate the conductive status of the pore domain. To better understand the inherent basis for the open-closed equilibrium in these channels, we undertook an atomistic scan using synthetic fluorinated derivatives of aromatic residues previously implicated in the gating of Shaker potassium channels. Here we show that stepwise dispersion of the negative electrostatic surface potential of only one site, Phe481, stabilizes the channel open state. Furthermore, these data suggest that this apparent stabilization is the consequence of the amelioration of an inherently repulsive open-state interaction between the partial negative charge on the face of Phe481 and a highly co-evolved acidic side chain, Glu395, and this interaction is potentially modulated through the Tyr485 hydroxyl. We propose that the intrinsic open-state destabilization via aromatic repulsion represents a new mechanism by which ion channels, and likely other proteins, fine-tune conformational equilibria.
    Nature Communications 01/2013; 4:1784. · 10.02 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily member 1 channels are polymodal sensors of noxious stimuli and integral players in thermosensation, inflammation and pain signaling. It has been shown previously that under prolonged stimulation, these channels show dynamic pore dilation, providing a pathway for large and otherwise relatively impermeant molecules. Further, we have shown recently that these nonselective cation channels, when activated by capsaicin, are potently and reversibly blocked by external application of quaternary ammonium compounds and local anesthetics. Here we describe a novel phenomenon in transient receptor potential channel pharmacology whereby their expression levels in Xenopus laevis oocytes, as assessed by the magnitude of macroscopic currents, are negatively correlated with extracellular blocker affinity: small current densities give rise to nanomolar blockade by quaternary ammoniums and this affinity decreases linearly as current density increases. Possible mechanisms to explain these data are discussed in light of similar observations in other channels and receptors.
    Channels (Austin, Tex.) 01/2013; 7(1):47-50. · 1.91 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels enable potassium efflux and membrane repolarization in excitable tissues. Many Kv channels undergo a progressive loss of ion conductance in the presence of a prolonged voltage stimulus, termed slow inactivation, but the atomic determinants that regulate the kinetics of this process remain obscure. Using a combination of synthetic amino acid analogs and concatenated channel subunits we establish two H-bonds near the extracellular surface of the channel that endow Kv channels with a mechanism to time the entry into slow inactivation: an intra-subunit H-bond between Asp447 and Trp434 and an inter-subunit H-bond connecting Tyr445 to Thr439. Breaking of either interaction triggers slow inactivation by means of a local disruption in the selectivity filter, while severing the Tyr445-Thr439 H-bond is likely to communicate this conformational change to the adjacent subunit(s). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01289.001.
    eLife Sciences 01/2013; 2:e01289.
  • Stephan A. Pless, Christopher A. Ahern
    Biophysical Journal 01/2013; 104(2):542-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Voltage sensor domains (VSDs) regulate ion channels and enzymes by undergoing conformational changes depending on membrane electrical signals. The molecular mechanisms underlying the VSD transitions are not fully understood. Here, we show that some mutations of I241 in the S1 segment of the Shaker Kv channel positively shift the voltage dependence of the VSD movement and alter the functional coupling between VSD and pore domains. Among the I241 mutants, I241W immobilized the VSD movement during activation and deactivation, approximately halfway between the resting and active states, and drastically shifted the voltage activation of the ionic conductance. This phenotype, which is consistent with a stabilization of an intermediate VSD conformation by the I241W mutation, was diminished by the charge-conserving R2K mutation but not by the charge-neutralizing R2Q mutation. Interestingly, most of these effects were reproduced by the F244W mutation located one helical turn above I241. Electrophysiology recordings using nonnatural indole derivatives ruled out the involvement of cation-Π interactions for the effects of the Trp inserted at positions I241 and F244 on the channel's conductance, but showed that the indole nitrogen was important for the I241W phenotype. Insight into the molecular mechanisms responsible for the stabilization of the intermediate state were investigated by creating in silico the mutations I241W, I241W/R2K, and F244W in intermediate conformations obtained from a computational VSD transition pathway determined using the string method. The experimental results and computational analysis suggest that the phenotype of I241W may originate in the formation of a hydrogen bond between the indole nitrogen atom and the backbone carbonyl of R2. This work provides new information on intermediate states in voltage-gated ion channels with an approach that produces minimum chemical perturbation.
    The Journal of General Physiology 12/2012; 140(6):635-52. · 4.73 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 (TRPV1) channels are essential nociceptive integrators in primary afferent neurons. These nonselective cation channels are inhibited by local anesthetic compounds through an undefined mechanism. Here, we show that lidocaine inhibits TRPV1 channels expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes, while the neutral local anesthetic, benzocaine, does not, suggesting a titratable amine is required for high affinity inhibition. Consistent with this possibility, extracellular tetraethylammonium (TEA) and tetramethylammonium (TMA) application produces potent, voltage-dependent pore block. Alanine substitutions at F649 and E648, residues in the putative TRPV1 pore region, significantly abrogated the concentration-dependent TEA inhibition. The results suggest that large cations, shown previously to enter cells through activated TRP channels, can also act as channel blockers.
    Molecular pharmacology 09/2012; · 4.53 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):326-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):530-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):13a. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are chloride channels that mediate fast inhibitory neurotransmission and are members of the pentameric ligand-gated ion channel (pLGIC) family. The interface between the ligand binding domain and the transmembrane domain of pLGICs has been proposed to be crucial for channel gating and is lined by a number of charged and aromatic side chains that are highly conserved among different pLGICs. However, little is known about specific interactions between these residues that are likely to be important for gating in α1 GlyRs. Here we use the introduction of cysteine pairs and the in vivo nonsense suppression method to incorporate unnatural amino acids to probe the electrostatic and hydrophobic contributions of five highly conserved side chains near the interface, Glu-53, Phe-145, Asp-148, Phe-187, and Arg-218. Our results suggest a salt bridge between Asp-148 in loop 7 and Arg-218 in the pre-M1 domain that is crucial for channel gating. We further propose that Phe-145 and Phe-187 play important roles in stabilizing this interaction by providing a hydrophobic environment. In contrast to the equivalent residues in loop 2 of other pLGICs, the negative charge at Glu-53 α1 GlyRs is not crucial for normal channel function. These findings help decipher the GlyR gating pathway and show that distinct residue interaction patterns exist in different pLGICs. Furthermore, a salt bridge between Asp-148 and Arg-218 would provide a possible mechanistic explanation for the pathophysiologically relevant hyperekplexia, or startle disease, mutant Arg-218 → Gln.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 08/2011; 286(40):35129-36. · 4.65 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily member 1 (TRPV1) channels are important integrators of noxious stimuli with pronounced expression in nociceptive neurons. The experimental local anesthetic, QX-314, a quaternary (i.e., permanently charged) lidocaine derivative, recently has been shown to interact with and permeate these channels to produce nociceptive and sensory blockade in animals in vivo. However, little is known about the specific interactions between QX-314 and TRPV1 channels. Thus, the authors examined the mechanistic basis by which QX-314 acts on TRPV1 channels. The authors conducted an in vitro laboratory study in which they expressed TRPV1 and TRPV4 channels in Xenopus laevis oocytes and recorded cation currents with the two-electrode voltage clamp method. They used confocal microscopy for Ca²⁺ imaging in TRPV1 transient transfected tsA201 cells. Drugs were bath-applied by gravity perfusion. Statistical analyses were performed using Student t test, ANOVA, and post tests as appropriate (P < 0.05). QX-314 activated TRPV1 channels at 10, 30, and 60 mM (0.4 ± 0.1%, 3.5 ± 1.3%, and 21.5 ± 6.9% of normalized peak activation, respectively; mean ± SEM; n = 12) but not TRPV4 channels (P < 0.001). Activation by QX-314 was blocked by the TRPV1 antagonist, capsazepine (100 μM). QX-314 (60 mM) activation and blockade by capsazepine was also demonstrated in Ca²⁺ imaging studies on TRPV1-expressing tsA201 cells. At subactivating concentrations (less than 1 mM), QX-314 potently inhibited capsaicin-evoked TRPV1 currents with an IC₅₀ of 8.0 ± 0.6 μM. The results of this study show that the quaternary lidocaine derivative QX-314 exerts biphasic effects on TRPV1 channels, inhibiting capsaicin-evoked TRPV1 currents at lower (micromolar) concentrations and activating TRPV1 channels at higher (millimolar) concentrations. These findings provide novel insights into the interactions between QX-314 and TRPV1 and may provide an explanation for the irritant properties of intrathecal QX-314 in mice in vivo.
    Anesthesiology 06/2011; 114(6):1425-34. · 5.16 Impact Factor
  • Stephan A. Pless, Christopher A. Ahern
    Biophysical Journal 01/2011; 100. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cation-π interactions have been demonstrated to play a major role in agonist-binding in Cys-loop receptors. However, neither the aromatic amino acid contributing to this interaction nor its location is conserved among Cys-loop receptors. Likewise, it is not clear how many different agonists of a given receptor form a cation-π interaction or, if they do, whether it is with the same aromatic amino acid as the major physiological agonist. We demonstrated previously that Phe159 in the glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit forms a strong cation-π interaction with the principal agonist, glycine. In the current study, we investigated whether the lower efficacy agonists of the human GlyR β-alanine and taurine also form cation-π interactions with Phe159. By incorporating a series of unnatural amino acids, we found cation-π interactions between Phe159 and the amino groups of β-alanine and taurine. The strengths of these interactions were significantly weaker than for glycine. Modeling studies suggest that β-alanine and taurine are orientated subtly differently in the binding pocket, with their amino groups further from Phe159 than that of glycine. These data therefore show that similar agonists can have similar but not identical orientations and interactions in the binding pocket and provide a possible explanation for the lower potencies of β-alanine and taurine.
    Molecular pharmacology 01/2011; 79(4):742-8. · 4.53 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cardiac sodium channels are established therapeutic targets for the management of inherited and acquired arrhythmias by class I anti-arrhythmic drugs (AADs). These drugs share a common target receptor bearing two highly conserved aromatic side chains, and are subdivided by the Vaughan-Williams classification system into classes Ia-c based on their distinct effects on the electrocardiogram. How can these drugs elicit distinct effects on the cardiac action potential by binding to a common receptor? Here we use fluorinated phenylalanine derivatives to test whether the electronegative surface potential of aromatic side chains contributes to inhibition by six class I AADs. Surprisingly, we find that class Ib AADs bind via a strong electrostatic cation-pi interaction, whereas class Ia and Ic AADs rely significantly less on this interaction. Our data shed new light on drug-target interactions underlying the inhibition of cardiac sodium channels by clinically relevant drugs and provide information for the directed design of AADs.
    Nature Communications 01/2011; 2:351. · 10.02 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

222 Citations
149.42 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012–2013
    • University of British Columbia - Vancouver
      • Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics
      Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2008–2011
    • University of Queensland 
      • School of Biomedical Sciences
      Brisbane, Queensland, Australia