Small‐conductance Ca2+‐activated potassium (SK) channels are activated exclusively by increases in intracellular Ca2+, that binds to calmodulin constitutively associated with the channel. Wild‐type SK2 channels are activated by Ca2+ with an EC50 value of ~0.3 μM. Here, we investigate hydrophobic interactions between the HA helix and the S4‐S5 linker as a major determinant of channel apparent Ca2+ sensitivity.
site‐directed mutagenesis, electrophysiological recordings and molecular dynamic (MD) simulations were utilized.
Mutations that decrease hydrophobicity at the HA‐S4‐S5 interface lead to Ca2+ hyposensitivity of SK2 channels. Mutations that increase hydrophobicity result in hypersensitivity to Ca2+. The Ca2+ hypersensitivity of the V407F mutant relies on the interaction of the cognate phenylalanine with the S4‐S5 linker in the SK2 channel. Replacing the S4‐S5 linker of the SK2 channel with the S4‐S5 linker of the SK4 channel results in loss of the hypersensitivity caused by V407F. This difference between the S4‐S5 linkers of SK2 and SK4 channels can be partially attributed to I295 equivalent to a valine in the SK4 channel. A N293A mutation in the S4‐S5 linker also increases hydrophobicity at the HA‐S4‐S5 interface and elevates the channel apparent Ca2+ sensitivity. The double N293A/V407F mutations generate a highly Ca2+ sensitive channel, with an EC50 of 0.02 μM. The MD simulations of this double mutant channel revealed a larger channel cytoplasmic gate.
The electrophysiological data and MD simulations collectively suggest a crucial role of the interactions between the HA helix and S4‐S5 linker in the apparent Ca2+ sensitivity of SK2 channels.
Nam YW, Cui M, Orfali R, et al. Hydrophobic interactions between the HA helix and S4‐S5 linker modulate apparent Ca2+ sensitivity of SK2 channels. Acta Physiol. 2020; 231:e13552. https://doi.org/10.1111/apha.13552