316 research outputs found

    Crystallographic Analyses of Ion Channels: Lessons and Challenges

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    Membrane proteins fascinate at many levels, from their central functional roles in transport, energy transduction, and signal transduction processes to structural questions concerning how they fold and operate in the exotic environments of the membrane bilayer and the water-bilayer interface and to methodological issues associated with studying membrane proteins either in situ or extracted from the membrane. This interplay is beautifully exemplified by ion channels, a collection of integral membrane proteins that mediate the transmembrane passage of ions down their electrochemical potential gradient (for general reviews, see Refs. 1 and 2). Ion channels are key elements of signaling and sensing pathways, including nerve cell conduction, hormone response, and mechanosensation. The characteristic properties of ion channels reflect their conductance, ion selectivity, and gating. Ion channels are often specific for a particular type of ion (such as potassium or chloride) or a class of ions (such as anions) and are typically regulated by conformational switching of the protein structure between "open" and "closed" states. This conformational switching may be gated in response to changes in membrane potential, ligand binding, or application of mechanical forces. Detailed functional characterizations of channels and their gating mechanisms have been achieved, reflecting exquisite methodological advances such as patch clamp methods that can monitor the activities of individual channels (3). Until recently, corresponding information about the three-dimensional structures of channels was not available, reflecting difficulties in obtaining sufficient quantities of membrane proteins for crystallization trials. Happily, this situation has started to change with the structure determinations of the Streptomyces lividans K+ channel (KcsA (4)) and the Mycobacterium tuberculosis mechanosensitive channel (MscL (5)). A variety of reviews (6-12) have appeared recently that discuss functional implications of these channel structures. This review discusses these developments from a complementary perspective, by considering the implications of these structures from within the larger framework of membrane protein structure and function. Because of space restrictions, this review necessarily emphasizes membrane proteins that are composed primarily of alpha-helical bundles, such as KcsA and MscL, rather than beta-barrel proteins, such as porins, typically found in bacterial outer membranes

    ABC transporters: the power to change

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    ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters constitute a ubiquitous superfamily of integral membrane proteins that are responsible for the ATP-powered translocation of many substrates across membranes. The highly conserved ABC domains of ABC transporters provide the nucleotide-dependent engine that drives transport. By contrast, the transmembrane domains that create the translocation pathway are more variable. Recent structural advances with prokaryotic ABC transporters have provided a qualitative molecular framework for deciphering the transport cycle. An important goal is to develop quantitative models that detail the kinetic and molecular mechanisms by which ABC transporters couple the binding and hydrolysis of ATP to substrate translocation

    A fast genetically encoded fluorescent sensor for faithful in vivo acetylcholine detection in mice, fish, worms and flies

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    Here we design and optimize a genetically encoded fluorescent indicator, iAChSnFR, for the ubiquitous neurotransmitter acetylcholine, based on a bacterial periplasmic binding protein. iAChSnFR shows large fluorescence changes, rapid rise and decay kinetics, and insensitivity to most cholinergic drugs. iAChSnFR revealed large transients in a variety of slice and in vivo preparations in mouse, fish, fly and worm. iAChSnFR will be useful for the study of acetylcholine in all organisms