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Zinc mediates assembly of the T1 domain of the voltage-gated K channel 4.2.

Alex W Jahng, Candace Strang, Don Kaiser, Thomas Pollard, Paul Pfaffinger, Senyon Choe

J. Biol. Chem., 2002 Dec 6 , 277, 47885-90

An intermolecular Zn(2+)-binding site was identified in the structure of the T1 domain of the Shaw-type potassium channels (aKv3.1). T1 is a BTB/POZ-type domain responsible for the ordered assembly of voltage-gated potassium channels and interactions with other macromolecules. In this structure, a Zn(2+) ion was found to be coordinated between each of the four assembly interfaces of the T1 tetramer by three Cys and one His encoded in the sequence motif (HX(5)CX(20)CC) of the T1 domain. This sequence motif is conserved among all non-Shaker-type voltage-dependent potassium (Kv) channels, but not in Shaker-type channels. The presence of this conserved Zn(2+)-binding site is a primary molecular determinant that distinguishes the tetrameric assembly of non-Shaker Kv channel subunits from that of Shaker channels. We report here that tetramerization of the Shal (rKv4.2) T1 in solution requires the presence of Zn(2+), and the addition/removal of Zn(2+) reversibly switches the protein between a stable tetrameric or monomeric state. We further show that the conversion from tetramers to monomers is profoundly pH-dependent: as the solution pH gets lower, the dissociation rate increases significantly. The unfolding energy of the T1 tetramer as a measure of the conformational stability of the structure is also pH-dependent. Surprisingly, at a lower pH we observe a distinctly altered conformational state of the T1 tetramer trapped during the process of unfolding of the T1 tetramer in the presence of Zn(2+). The conformational alteration may be responsible for increased rate of dissociation at lower pH by allowing Zn(2+) to be removed more effectively by EDTA. The ability of the T1 domain to adopt stable alternative conformations may be essential to its function as a protein-protein interaction/signaling domain to modulate the ion conduction properties of intact full-length Kv channels.