Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Flexibility of the Kir6.2 inward rectifier K(+) channel pore.

PMID 11274446


Interactions of sulfhydryl reagents with introduced cysteines in the pore-forming (Kir6.2) subunits of the K(ATP) channel were examined. 2-Aminoethyl methanethiosulfonate (MTSEA(+)) failed to modify Cd(2+)-insensitive control-Kir6.2 channels, but rapidly and irreversibly modified Kir6.2[L164C] (L164C) channels. Although a single Cd(2+) ion is coordinated by L164C, four MTSEA(+) "hits" can occur, each sequentially reducing the single-channel current. A dimeric fusion of control-Kir6.2 and L164C subunits generates Cd(2+)-insensitive channels, confirming that at least three cysteines are required for coordination, but MTSEA(+) modification of the dimer occurs in two hits. L164C channels were not modified by bromotrimethyl ammoniumbimane (qBBr(+)), even though qBBr(+) caused voltage-dependent block (as opposed to modification) that was comparable to that of MTSEA(+) or 3-(triethylammonium)propyl methanethiosulfonate (MTSPTrEA(+)), implying that qBBr(+) can also enter the inner cavity but does not modify L164C residues. The Kir channel pore structure was modeled by homology with the KcsA crystal structure. A stable conformation optimally places the four L164C side chains for coordination of a single Cd(2+) ion. Modification of these cysteines by up to four MTSEA(+) (or three MTSPTrEA(+), or two qBBr(+)) does not require widening of the cavity to accommodate the derivatives within it. However, like the KcsA crystal structure, the energy-minimized model shows a narrowing at the inner entrance, and in the Kir6.2 model this narrowing excludes all ions. To allow entry of ions as large as MTSPTrEA(+) or qBBr(+), the entrance must widen to >8 A, but this widening is readily accomplished by minimal M2 helix motion and side-chain rearrangement.