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Membrane damage by a toxin from the sea anemone Stoichactis helianthus. 1. Formation of transmembrane channels in lipid bilayers



Membrane damage by a toxin from the sea anemone Stoichactis helianthus. 1. Formation of transmembrane channels in lipid bilayers



Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 5551: 67-78



The addition of nanomolar amounts of a toxin preparation derived from the sea anemone S. helianthus to black lipid membranes increases their electrical conductance 106-fold. In addition, the membranes become permeable predominantly to monovalent cations. The elevated bilayer conductance is voltage-dependent, and the current-voltage curves of these bilayers display rectification as well as a region of negative resistance. The membrane activity of the toxin is proportional to the 3rd power of its concentration, and at very low concentrations the membrane conductance increases in discrete uniform steps. These observations indicate that the mechanism of toxin action involves the formation of transmembrane channels constructed by the aggregation of protein molecules which are inserted in the bilayer. The voltage-dependent membrane conductance arises from 2 distinct channel characteristics: the unit conductance of individual channels is dependent on the polarity of applied voltage; the number of ion-conducting channels is influenced by the polarity as well as the magnitude of applied potential. It is believed that these effects are due to the influence of an electric field on the insertion of toxin molecules into the bilayer or on their subsequent association with each other to produce channels. Partial chemical characterization of the toxin material has shown that the membrane active factor is a basic protein with a MW of 17,500.

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Accession: 021333854

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PMID: 38841


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