ABSTRACT: Abstract Voltage-gated ion (K(+), Na(+), Ca(2+)) channels contain a pore domain (PD) surrounded by four voltage sensing domains (VSD). Each VSD is made up of four transmembrane helices, S1-S4. S4 contains 6-7 positively charged residues (arginine/lysine) separated two hydrophobic residues, whereas S1-S3 contribute to two negatively charged clusters. These structures are conserved among all members of the voltage-gated ion channel family and play essential roles in voltage gating. The role of S4 charged residues in voltage gating is well established: During depolarization, they move out of the membrane electric field, exerting a mechanical force on channel gates, causing them to open. However, the role of the intervening hydrophobic residues in voltage sensing is unclear. Here we studied the role of these residues in the prototypical Shaker potassium channel. We have altered the physicochemical properties of both charged and hydrophobic positions of S4 and examined the effect of these modifications on the gating properties of the channel. For this, we have introduced cysteines at each of these positions, expressed the mutants in Xenopus oocytes, and examined the effect of in situ addition of charge, via Cd(2+), on channel gating by two-electrode voltage clamp. Our results reveal a face of the S4 helix (comprising residues L358, L361, R365 and R368) where introduction of charge at hydrophobic positions destabilises the closed state and removal of charges from charged positions has an opposite effect. We propose that hydrophobic residues play a crucial role in limiting gating to a physiological voltage range.
Molecular Membrane Biology 08/2012; · 2.86 Impact Factor