Lipid bilayer modules as determinants of K+ channel gating [Molecular Biophysics]

December 20th, 2013 by Syeda, R., Santos, J. S., Montal, M.

The crystal structure of the sensorless pore module of a voltage-gated K+ (Kv) channel showed that lipids occupy a crevice between subunits. We asked if individual lipid monolayers of the bilayer embody independent modules linked to channel gating modulation. Functional studies using single channel current recordings of the sensorless pore module reconstituted in symmetric and asymmetric lipid bilayers allowed us to establish the deterministic role of lipid headgroup on gating. We discovered that individual monolayers with headgroups that coat the bilayer-aqueous interface with hydroxyls stabilize the channel open conformation. The hydroxyl need not be at a terminal position and the effect is not dependent on the presence of phosphate or net charge on the lipid headgroup. Asymmetric lipid bilayers allowed us to determine that phosphoglycerides with glycerol or inositol on the extracellular facing monolayer stabilize the open conformation of the channel. This indirect effect is attributed to a change in water structure at the membrane interface. By contrast, inclusion of the positively-charged lysyl-dioleoyl-phosphatidylglycerol exclusively on the cytoplasmic facing monolayer of the bilayer increases drastically the probability of finding the channel open. Such modulation is mediated by a Π-cation interaction between Phe-19 of the pore module and the lysyl moiety anchored to the phosphatidylglycerol headgroup. The new findings imply that the specific chemistry of the lipid headgroup and its selective location in either monolayer of the bilayer dictate the stability of the open conformation of a Kv pore module in the absence of voltage-sensing modules.