cAMP binding to closed pacemaker ion channels is non-cooperative

David S. White, Sandipan Chowdhury, Vinay Idikuda, Ruohan Zhang, Scott T. Retterer, Randall H. Goldsmith, Baron Chanda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Electrical activity in the brain and heart depends on rhythmic generation of action potentials by pacemaker ion channels (HCN) whose activity is regulated by cAMP binding1. Previous work has uncovered evidence for both positive and negative cooperativity in cAMP binding2,3, but such bulk measurements suffer from limited parameter resolution. Efforts to eliminate this ambiguity using single-molecule techniques have been hampered by the inability to directly monitor binding of individual ligand molecules to membrane receptors at physiological concentrations. Here we overcome these challenges using nanophotonic zero-mode waveguides4 to directly resolve binding dynamics of individual ligands to multimeric HCN1 and HCN2 ion channels. We show that cAMP binds independently to all four subunits when the pore is closed, despite a subsequent conformational isomerization to a flip state at each site. The different dynamics in binding and isomerization are likely to underlie physiologically distinct responses of each isoform to cAMP5 and provide direct validation of the ligand-induced flip-state model6–9. This approach for observing stepwise binding in multimeric proteins at physiologically relevant concentrations can directly probe binding allostery at single-molecule resolution in other intact membrane proteins and receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-610
Number of pages5
Issue number7868
StatePublished - Jul 22 2021


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