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The gating mechanism of the bacterial mechanosensitive channel MscL revealed by molecular dynamics simulations: from tension sensing to channel opening

The gating mechanism of the bacterial mechanosensitive channel MscL revealed by molecular dynamics simulations: from tension sensing to channel opening

Channels 6(4): 317-331

One of the ultimate goals of the study on mechanosensitive (MS) channels is to understand the biophysical mechanisms of how the MS channel protein senses forces and how the sensed force induces channel gating. The bacterial MS channel MscL is an ideal subject to reach this goal owing to its resolved 3D protein structure in the closed state on the atomic scale and large amounts of electrophysiological data on its gating kinetics. However, the structural basis of the dynamic process from the closed to open states in MscL is not fully understood. In this study, we performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations on the initial process of MscL opening in response to a tension increase in the lipid bilayer. To identify the tension-sensing site(s) in the channel protein, we calculated interaction energy between membrane lipids and candidate amino acids (AAs) facing the lipids. We found that Phe78 has a conspicuous interaction with the lipids, suggesting that Phe78 is the primary tension sensor of MscL. Increased membrane tension by membrane stretch dragged radially the inner (TM1) and outer (TM2) helices of MscL at Phe78, and the force was transmitted to the pentagon-shaped gate that is formed by the crossing of the neighboring TM1 helices in the inner leaflet of the bilayer. The radial dragging force induced radial sliding of the crossing portions, leading to a gate expansion. Calculated energy for this expansion is comparable to an experimentally estimated energy difference between the closed and the first subconductance state, suggesting that our model simulates the initial step toward the full opening of MscL. The model also successfully mimicked the behaviors of a gain of function mutant (G22N) and a loss of function mutant (F78N), strongly supporting that our MD model did simulate some essential biophysical aspects of the mechano-gating in MscL.

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Accession: 056350462

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PMID: 23146938

DOI: 10.4161/chan.21895

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