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Structural characterisation of neuronal voltage-sensitive K+ channels heterologously expressed in Pichia pastoris.

David N Parcej, Luise Eckhardt-Strelau

J. Mol. Biol., 2003 Oct 10 , 333, 103-16

Neuronal voltage-dependent K(+) channels of the delayed rectifier type consist of multiple Kv alpha subunit variants, which assemble as hetero- or homotetramers, together with four Kv beta auxiliary subunits. Direct structural information on these proteins has not been forthcoming due to the difficulty in isolating the native K(+) channels. We have overexpressed the subunit genes in the yeast Pichia pastoris. The Kv1.2 subunit expressed alone is shown to fold into a native conformation as determined by high-affinity binding of 125I-labelled alpha-dendrotoxin, while co-expressed Kv1.2 and Kv beta 2 subunits co-assembled to form native-like oligomers. Sites of post-translational modifications causing apparent heterogeneity on SDS-PAGE were identified by site-directed mutagenesis. Engineering to include affinity tags and scale-up of production by fermentation allowed routine purification of milligram quantities of homo- and heteroligomeric channels. Single-particle electron microscopy of the purified channels was used to generate a 3D volume to 2.1 nm resolution. Protein domains were assigned by fitting crystal structures of related bacterial proteins. Addition of exogenous lipid followed by detergent dialysis produced well-ordered 2D crystals that exhibited mostly p12(1) symmetry. Projection maps of negatively stained crystals show the constituent molecules to be 4-fold symmetric, as expected for the octameric K(+) channel complex.