Membrane Insertion of a Potassium-Channel Voltage Sensor

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Science  04 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5714, pp. 1427
DOI: 10.1126/science.1109176

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The mechanism of voltage gating in K+ channels is controversial. The paddle model posits that highly charged voltage-sensor domains move relatively freely across the lipid bilayer in response to membrane depolarization; competing models picture the charged S4 voltage-sensor helix as being shielded from lipid contact by other parts of the protein. We measured the apparent free energy of membrane insertion of a K+-channel S4 helix into the endoplasmic reticulum membrane and conclude that S4 is poised very near the threshold of efficient bilayer insertion. Our results suggest that the paddle model is not inconsistent with the high charge content of S4.

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