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Voltage-sensing residues in the S4 region of a mammalian K+ channel.

E R Liman, P Hess, F Weaver, G Koren

Nature, 1991 Oct 24 , 353, 752-6

The ability of ion-channel proteins to respond to a change of the transmembrane voltage is one of the basic mechanisms underlying electrical excitability of nerve and muscle membranes. The voltage sensor has been postulated to be the fourth putative transmembrane segment (S4) of voltage-activated Na+, Ca2+ and K+ channels. Mutations of positively charged residues within S4 alter gating of Na and Shaker-type K+ channels, but quantitative correlations between the charge or a residue in S4 and the gating valence of the channel have not yet been established. Here, with improved resolution of the voltage dependence of steady-state activation, we present estimates of the equivalent gating valence with sufficient precision to allow quantitative examination of the contribution of individual charged residues to the gating valence of a mammalian non-inactivating K+ channel. We conclude that at least part of the gating charge associated with channel activation is indeed contributed by charged residues within the S4 segment.