Sensing and Responding to Membrane Tension: The Bacterial MscL Channel as a Model System

Department of Physiology, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, Texas. USA.
Biophysical Journal (Impact Factor: 3.97). 07/2012; 103(2):169-74. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.06.021
Source: PubMed


Mechanosensors are important for many life functions, including the senses of touch, balance, and proprioception; cardiovascular regulation; kidney function; and osmoregulation. Many channels from an assortment of families are now candidates for eukaryotic mechanosensors and proprioception, as well as cardiovascular regulation, kidney function, and osmoregulation. Bacteria also possess two families of mechanosensitive channels, termed MscL and MscS, that function as osmotic emergency release valves. Of the two channels, MscL is the most conserved, most streamlined in structure, and largest in conductance at 3.6 nS with a pore diameter in excess of 30 Å; hence, the structural changes required for gating are exaggerated and perhaps more easily defined. Because of these properties, as well as its tractable nature, MscL represents a excellent model for studying how a channel can sense and respond to biophysical changes of a lipid bilayer. Many of the properties of the MscL channel, such as the sensitivity to amphipaths, a helix that runs along the membrane surface and is connected to the pore via a glycine, a twisting and turning of the transmembrane domains upon gating, and the dynamic changes in membrane interactions, may be common to other candidate mechanosensors. Here we review many of these properties and discuss their structural and functional implications.

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Available from: Irene Iscla, Sep 03, 2014
    • "Detergent is another important parameter and, for a given construct, the observed oligomeric state can vary with changes in detergent. Moreover, the physiological function of MscL reflects an intimate coupling to the properties of the lipid bilayer (Iscla and Blount, 2012; Laganowsky et al., 2014) and changes in the membrane environment can influence the gating properties of MscL (Moe et al., 2000). A specific interaction between MtMscL and phosphatidylinositol is crucial for the mechanosensitivity of this channel (Zhong and Blount, 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: The mechanosensitive channel of large conductance (MscL) acts as an emergency release valve for osmotic shock of bacteria preventing cell lysis. The large pore size, essential for function, requires the formation of oligomers with tetramers, pentamers, or hexamers observed depending on the species and experimental approach. We applied non-denaturing (native) mass spectrometry to five different homologs of MscL to determine the oligomeric state under more than 50 different experimental conditions elucidating lipid binding and subunit stoichiometry. We found equilibrium between pentameric and tetrameric species, which can be altered by detergent, disrupted by binding specific lipids, and perturbed by increasing temperature (37°C). We also established the presence of lipopolysaccharide bound to MscL and other membrane proteins expressed in Escherichia coli, revealing a potential source of heterogeneity. More generally, we highlight the use of mass spectrometry in probing membrane proteins under a variety of detergent-lipid environments relevant to structural biology. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Chemistry & biology
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    • "Its evolution has been considered elsewhere [68] [82]. The MscS family of proteins displays considerable plasticity in their current forms and the variants may have arisen by a variety of routes, including duplication, fusion, fission and evolved expression controls (Fig. 2). "
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    ABSTRACT: Mechanosensitive channels are ubiquitous and highly studied. However, the evolution of the bacterial channels remains enigmatic. It can be argued that mechanosensitivity might be a feature of all membrane proteins with some becoming progressively less sensitive to membrane tension over the course of evolution. Bacteria and archaea exhibit two main classes of channels, MscS and MscL. Present day channels suggest that the evolution of MscL may be highly constrained, whereas MscS has undergone elaboration via gene fusion (and potentially gene fission) events to generate a diversity of channel structures. Some of these channel variants are constrained to a small number of genera or species. Some are only found in higher organisms. Only exceptionally have these diverse channels been investigated in any detail. In this review we consider both the processes that might have led to the evolved complexity but also some of the methods exploiting the explosion of genome sequences to understand (and/or track) their distribution. The role of MscS-related channels in calcium-mediated cell biology events is considered.
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    ABSTRACT: Cells are constantly exposed to mechanical stimuli in their environment and have several evolved mechanisms to sense and respond to these cues. It is becoming increasingly recognized that many cell types, from bacteria to mammalian cells, possess a diverse set of proteins to translate mechanical cues into biochemical signalling and to mediate cell surface interactions such as cell adhesion. Moreover, the mechanical properties of cells are involved in regulating cell function as well as serving as indicators of disease states. Importantly, the recent development of biophysical tools and nanoscale methods has facilitated a deeper understanding of the role that physical forces play in modulating cell mechanics and cell adhesion. Here, we discuss how atomic force microscopy (AFM) has recently been used to investigate cell mechanics and cell adhesion at the single-cell and single-molecule levels. This knowledge is critical to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that govern mechanosensing, mechanotransduction, and mechanoresponse in living cells. While pushing living cells with the AFM tip provides a means to quantify their mechanical properties and examine their response to nanoscale forces, pulling single surface proteins with a functionalized tip allows one to understand their role in sensing and adhesion. The combination of these nanoscale techniques with modern molecular biology approaches, genetic engineering and optical microscopies provides a powerful platform for understanding the sophisticated functions of the cell surface machinery, and its role in the onset and progression of complex diseases.
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