Nature structural & molecular biology

Energetic role of the paddle motif in voltage gating of Shaker K(+) channels.

PMID 23542156


Voltage-gated ion channels underlie rapid electric signaling in excitable cells. Electrophysiological studies have established that the N-terminal half of the fourth transmembrane segment ((NT)S4) of these channels is the primary voltage sensor, whereas crystallographic studies have shown that (NT)S4 is not located within a proteinaceous pore. Rather, (NT)S4 and the C-terminal half of S3 ((CT)S3 or S3b) form a helix-turn-helix motif, termed the voltage-sensor paddle. This unexpected structural finding raises two fundamental questions: does the paddle motif also exist in voltage-gated channels in a biological membrane, and, if so, what is its function in voltage gating? Here, we provide evidence that the paddle motif exists in the open state of Drosophila Shaker voltage-gated K(+) channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes and that (CT)S3 acts as an extracellular hydrophobic 'stabilizer' for (NT)S4, thus biasing the gating chemical equilibrium toward the open state.