Direct Physical Measure of Conformational Rearrangement Underlying Potassium Channel Gating

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Science  12 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5246, pp. 213-216
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5246.213


In response to membrane depolarization, voltage-gated ion channels undergo a structural rearrangement that moves charges or dipoles in the membrane electric field and opens the channel-conducting pathway. By combination of site-specific fluorescent labeling of the Shaker potassium channel protein with voltage clamping, this gating conformational change was measured in real time. During channel activation, a stretch of at least seven amino acids of the putative transmembrane segment S4 moved from a buried position into the extracellular environment. This movement correlated with the displacement of the gating charge, providing physical evidence in support of the hypothesis that S4 is the voltage sensor of voltage-gated ion channels.

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