The Lipid Activation Mechanism of a Transmembrane Potassium Channel

Collin G. Borcik, Derek B. Versteeg, Reza Amani, Maryam Yekefallah, Nazmul H. Khan, Benjamin J. Wylie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Membrane proteins and lipids coevolved to yield unique coregulatory mechanisms. Inward-rectifier K+ (Kir) channels are often activated by anionic lipids endemic to their native membranes and require accessible water along their K+ conductance pathway. To better understand Kir channel activation, we target multiple mutants of the Kir channel KirBac1.1 via solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (SSNMR) spectroscopy, potassium efflux assays, and Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements. In the I131C stability mutant (SM), we observe an open-Active channel in the presence of anionic lipids with greater activity upon addition of cardiolipin (CL). The introduction of three R to Q mutations (R49/151/153Q (triple Q mutant, TQ)) renders the protein inactive within the same activating lipid environment. Our SSNMR experiments reveal a stark reduction of lipid-protein interactions in the TQ mutant explaining the dramatic loss of channel activity. Water-edited SSNMR experiments further determined the TQ mutant possesses greater overall solvent exposure in comparison to wild-Type but with reduced water accessibility along the ion conduction pathway, consistent with the closed state of the channel. These experiments also suggest water is proximal to the selectivity filter of KirBac1.1 in the open-Activated state but that it may not directly enter the selectivity filter. Our findings suggest lipid binding initiates a concerted rotation of the cytoplasmic domain subunits, which is stabilized by multiple intersubunit salt bridges. This action buries ionic side chains away from the bulk water, while allowing water greater access to the K+ conduction pathway. This work highlights universal membrane protein motifs, including lipid-protein interactions, domain rearrangement, and water-mediated diffusion mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14102-14116
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 19 2020


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