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J Gen Physiol. March 1, 2012; 139 (3): 235-44.

Selectivity filter gating in large-conductance Ca(2+)-activated K+ channels.

Thompson J , Begenisich T .

Membrane voltage controls the passage of ions through voltage-gated K (K(v)) channels, and many studies have demonstrated that this is accomplished by a physical gate located at the cytoplasmic end of the pore. Critical to this determination were the findings that quaternary ammonium ions and certain peptides have access to their internal pore-blocking sites only when the channel gates are open, and that large blocking ions interfere with channel closing. Although an intracellular location for the physical gate of K(v) channels is well established, it is not clear if such a cytoplasmic gate exists in all K(+) channels. Some studies on large-conductance, voltage- and Ca(2+)-activated K(+) (BK) channels suggest a cytoplasmic location for the gate, but other findings question this conclusion and, instead, support the concept that BK channels are gated by the pore selectivity filter. If the BK channel is gated by the selectivity filter, the interactions between the blocking ions and channel gating should be influenced by the permeant ion. Thus, we tested tetrabutyl ammonium (TBA) and the Shaker "ball" peptide (BP) on BK channels with either K(+) or Rb(+) as the permeant ion. When tested in K(+) solutions, both TBA and the BP acted as open-channel blockers of BK channels, and the BP interfered with channel closing. In contrast, when Rb(+) replaced K(+) as the permeant ion, TBA and the BP blocked both closed and open BK channels, and the BP no longer interfered with channel closing. We also tested the cytoplasmically gated Shaker K channels and found the opposite behavior: the interactions of TBA and the BP with these K(v) channels were independent of the permeant ion. Our results add significantly to the evidence against a cytoplasmic gate in BK channels and represent a positive test for selectivity filter gating.

PubMed ID: 22371364
PMC ID: PMC3289962
Article link: J Gen Physiol.
Grant support: DE016960 NIDCR NIH HHS, R01 DE016960 NIDCR NIH HHS

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Armstrong, 2001, Pubmed[+]

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