Chemical substitutions in the selectivity filter of potassium channels do not rule out constricted-like conformations for C-type inactivation [Biophysics and Computational Biology]
In many K+ channels, prolonged activating stimuli lead to a time-dependent reduction in ion conduction, a phenomenon known as C-type inactivation. X-ray structures of the KcsA channel suggest that this inactivated state corresponds to a “constricted” conformation of the selectivity filter. However, the functional significance of the constricted conformation has become a matter of debate. Functional and structural studies based on chemically modified semisynthetic KcsA channels along the selectivity filter led to the conclusion that the constricted conformation does not correspond to the C-type inactivated state. The main results supporting this view include the observation that C-type inactivation is not suppressed by a substitution of D-alanine at Gly77, even though this modification is believed to lock the selectivity filter into its conductive conformation, whereas it is suppressed following amide-to-ester backbone substitutions at Gly77 and Tyr78, even though these structure-conserving modifications are not believed to prevent the selectivity filter from adopting the constricted conformation. However, several untested assumptions about the structural and functional impact of these chemical modifications underlie these arguments. To make progress, molecular dynamics simulations based on atomic models of the KcsA channel were performed. The computational results support the notion that the constricted conformation of the selectivity filter corresponds to the functional C-type inactivated state of the KcsA. Importantly, MD simulations reveal that the semisynthetic KcsAD-ala77 channel can adopt an asymmetrical constricted-like nonconductive conformation and that the amide-to-ester backbone substitutions at Gly77 and Tyr78 perturb the hydrogen bonding involving the buried water molecules stabilizing the constricted conformation.
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