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Fine-tuning of voltage sensitivity of the Kv1.2 potassium channel by interhelix loop dynamics.

Rheanna Sand, Nazlee Sharmin, Carla Morgan, Warren J Gallin

J. Biol. Chem., 2013 Apr 5 , 288, 9686-95

Many proteins function by changing conformation in response to ligand binding or changes in other factors in their environment. Any change in the sequence of a protein, for example during evolution, which alters the relative free energies of the different functional conformations changes the conditions under which the protein will function. Voltage-gated ion channels are membrane proteins that open and close an ion-selective pore in response to changes in transmembrane voltage. The charged S4 transmembrane helix transduces changes in transmembrane voltage into a change in protein internal energy by interacting with the rest of the channel protein through a combination of non-covalent interactions between adjacent helices and covalent interactions along the peptide backbone. However, the structural basis for the wide variation in the V50 value between different voltage-gated potassium channels is not well defined. To test the role of the loop linking the S3 helix and the S4 helix in voltage sensitivity, we have constructed a set of mutants of the rat Kv1.2 channel that vary solely in the length and composition of the extracellular loop that connects S4 to S3. We evaluated the effect of these different loop substitutions on the voltage sensitivity of the channel and compared these experimental results with molecular dynamics simulations of the loop structures. Here, we show that this loop has a significant role in setting the precise V50 of activation in Kv1 family channels.