Research Articles

Molecular basis of gating charge immobilization in Shaker potassium channels

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Science  01 Nov 1991:
Vol. 254, Issue 5032, pp. 679-683
DOI: 10.1126/science.1948047


Voltage-dependent ion channels respond to changes in the membrane potential by means of charged voltage sensors intrinsic to the channel protein. Changes in transmembrane potential cause movement of these charged residues, which results in conformational changes in the channel. Movements of the charged sensors can be detected as currents known as gating currents. Measurement of the gating currents of the Drosophila Shaker potassium channel indicates that the charge on the voltage sensor of the channels is progressively immobilized by prolonged depolarizations. The charge is not immobilized in a mutant of the channel that lacks inactivation. These results show that the region of the molecule responsible for inactivation interacts, directly or indirectly, with the voltage sensor to prevent the return of the charge to its original position. The gating transitions between closed states of the channel appear not to be independent, suggesting that the channel subunits interact during activation.