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A threonine residue (Thr71) at the intracellular end of the M1 helix plays a critical role in the gating of Kir6.2 channels by intracellular ATP and protons.

N Cui, J Wu, H Xu, R Wang, A Rojas, H Piao, J Mao, L Abdulkadir, L Li, C Jiang

J. Membr. Biol., 2003 Mar 15 , 192, 111-22

ATP-sensitive K+ (K(ATP)) channels are known to be gated by several intracellular molecules, but the gating mechanisms remain unclear. To understand the relationship of channel gating to ligand binding, we studied Kir6.2 channel gating by ATP and protons, which inhibit and activate the channel, respectively. We have previously shown that a threonine residue (Thr71) is critical for the pH sensitivity of Kir6.2 channel. If this site is involved in channel gating rather than ligand binding, it should affect channel gating by both ATP and proton. To test this hypothesis we performed a mutation analysis. Site-specific mutations of Thr71 to a bulky residue reduced the ATP sensitivity by >100-fold and eliminated the pH sensitivity. Single-channel activity of these mutants was stabilized at the open state with no detectable rundown. Mutations to a small amino acid had little effect on the ATP and pH sensitivities. Mutations to intermediate amino acids reduced but did not abolish the ATP and pH sensitivities. Hydrophobicity is not critical, as both polar and nonpolar amino acids are found in each group. Mutation to a positively charged lysine markedly exacerbated the pH- but not ATP-sensitivity, whereas mutation to glutamate moderately reduced ATP and pH sensitivities. These results indicate that the residue mass is critical for Kir6.2 channel gating, a mass that should be below 120 daltons with no charge. The existence of such a site as Thr71 involved in channel gating by both ATP and proton suggests that channel gating in the K(ATP) channel likely is separate from ligand binding.