The Journal of general physiology

Control of inward rectifier K channel activity by lipid tethering of cytoplasmic domains.

PMID 17698595


Interactions between nontransmembrane domains and the lipid membrane are proposed to modulate activity of many ion channels. In Kir channels, the so-called "slide-helix" is proposed to interact with the lipid headgroups and control channel gating. We examined this possibility directly in a cell-free system consisting of KirBac1.1 reconstituted into pure lipid vesicles. Cysteine substitution of positively charged slide-helix residues (R49C and K57C) leads to loss of channel activity that is rescued by in situ restoration of charge following modification by MTSET(+) or MTSEA(+), but not MTSES(-) or neutral MMTS. Strikingly, activity is also rescued by modification with long-chain alkyl-MTS reagents. Such reagents are expected to partition into, and hence tether the side chain to, the membrane. Systematic scanning reveals additional slide-helix residues that are activated or inhibited following alkyl-MTS modification. A pattern emerges whereby lipid tethering of the N terminus, or C terminus, of the slide-helix, respectively inhibits, or activates, channel activity. This study establishes a critical role of the slide-helix in Kir channel gating, and directly demonstrates that physical interaction of soluble domains with the membrane can control ion channel activity.

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