Interaction between residues in the Mg2+-binding site regulates BK channel activation

Junqiu Yang, Huanghe Yang, Xiaohui Sun, Kelli Delaloye, Xiao Yang, Alyssa Moller, Jingyi Shi, Jianmin Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


As a unique member of the voltage-gated potassium channel family, a large conductance, voltage- and Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) channel has a large cytosolic domain that serves as the Ca2+ sensor, in addition to a membranespanning domain that contains the voltage-sensing (VSD) and pore-gate domains. The conformational changes of the cytosolic domain induced by Ca2+ binding and the conformational changes of the VSD induced by membrane voltage changes trigger the opening of the pore-gate domain. Although some structural information of these individual functional domains is available, how the interactions among these domains, especially the noncovalent interactions, control the dynamic gating process of BK channels is still not clear. Previous studies discovered that intracellular Mg2+ binds to an interdomain binding site consisting of D99 and N172 from the membrane-spanning domain and E374 and E399 from the cytosolic domain. The bound Mg2+ at this narrow interdomain interface activates the BK channel through an electrostatic interaction with a positively charged residue in the VSD. In this study, we investigated the potential interdomain interactions between the Mg2+-coordination residues and their effects on channel gating. By introducing different charges to these residues, we discovered a native interdomain interaction between D99 and E374 that can affect BK channel activation. To understand the underlying mechanism of the interdomain interactions between the Mg2+-coordination residues, we introduced artificial electrostatic interactions between residues 172 and 399 from two different domains. We found that the interdomain interactions between these two positions not only alter the local conformations near the Mg2+-binding site but also change distant conformations including the pore-gate domain, thereby affecting the voltage- and Ca2+-dependent activation of the BK channel. These results illustrate the importance of interdomain interactions to the allosteric gating mechanisms of BK channels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-228
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


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