Atomic constraints between the voltage sensor and the pore domain in a voltage-gated K+ channel of known structure

Anthony Lewis, V. Jogini, L. Blachowicz, M. Laine, B. Roux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In voltage-gated K+ channels (Kv), membrane depolarization promotes a structural reorganization of each of the four voltage sensor domains surrounding the conducting pore, inducing its opening. Although the crystal structure of Kv1.2 provided the first atomic resolution view of a eukaryotic Kv channel, several components of the voltage sensors remain poorly resolved. In particular, the position and orientation of the charged arginine side chains in the S4 transmembrane segments remain controversial. Here we investigate the proximity of S4 and the pore domain in functional Kv1.2 channels in a native membrane environment using electrophysiological analysis of intersubunit histidine metallic bridges formed between the first arginine of S4 (R294) and residues A351 or D352 of the pore domain. We show that histidine pairs are able to bind Zn2+ or Cd2+ with high affinity, demonstrating their close physical proximity. The results of molecular dynamics simulations, consistent with electrophysiological data, indicate that the position of the S4 helix in the functional open-activated state could be shifted by ∼7–8 Å and rotated counterclockwise by 37° along its main axis relative to its position observed in the Kv1.2 x-ray structure. A structural model is provided for this conformation. The results further highlight the dynamic and flexible nature of the voltage sensor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-561
Number of pages13
JournalThe Journal of General Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


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