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Extracellular links in Kir subunits control the unitary conductance of SUR/Kir6.0 ion channels.

V P Repunte, H Nakamura, A Fujita, Y Horio, I Findlay, L Pott, Y Kurachi

EMBO J., 1999 Jun 15 , 18, 3317-24

Potassium (K+) channels are highly selective for K+ ions but their unitary conductances are quite divergent. Although Kir6.1 and Kir6.2 are highly homologous and both form functional K+ channels with sulfonylurea receptors, their unitary conductances measured with 150 mM extracellular K+ are approximately 35 and 80 pS, respectively. We found that a chain of three amino acid residues N123-V124-R125 of Kir6.1 and S113-I114-H115 of Kir6.2 in the M1-H5 extracellular link and single residues M148 of Kir6.1 and V138 of Kir6.2 in the H5-M2 link accounted for the difference. By using a 3D structure model of Kir6.2, we were able to recognize two independent plausible mechanisms involved in the determination of single channel conductance of the Kir6.0 subunits: (i) steric effects at Kir6.2V138 or Kir6.1M148 in the H5-M2 link influence directly the diffusion of K+ ions; and (ii) structural constraints between Kir6.2S113 or Kir6. 1N123 in the M1-H5 link and Kir6.2R136 or Kir6.1R146 near the H5 region control the conformation of the permeation pathway. These mechanisms represent a novel and possibly general aspect of the control of ion channel permeability.