Interplay between VSD, pore, and membrane lipids in electromechanical coupling in HCN channels

Ahmad Elbahnsi, John Cowgill, Verena Burtscher, Linda Wedemann, Luise Zeckey, Baron Chanda, Lucie Delemotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Hyperpolarized-activated and cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels are the only members of the voltage-gated ion channel superfamily in mammals that open upon hyperpolar-ization, conferring them pacemaker properties that are instrumental for rhythmic firing of cardiac and neuronal cells. Activation of their voltage-sensor domains (VSD) upon hyperpolarization occurs through a downward movement of the S4 helix bearing the gating charges, which triggers a break in the alpha-helical hydrogen bonding pattern at the level of a conserved Serine residue. Previous structural and molecular simulation studies had however failed to capture pore opening that should be triggered by VSD activation, presumably because of a low VSD/pore electrome-chanical coupling efficiency and the limited timescales accessible to such techniques. Here, we have used advanced modeling strategies, including enhanced sampling molecular dynamics simulations exploiting comparisons between non-domain swapped voltage-gated ion channel structures trapped in closed and open states to trigger pore gating and characterize electromechanical coupling in HCN1. We propose that the coupling mechanism involves the reorganization of the interfaces between the VSD helices, in particular S4, and the pore-forming helices S5 and S6, subtly shifting the balance between hydrophobic and hydrophilic interactions in a ‘domino effect’ during activation and gating in this region. Remarkably, our simulations reveal state-dependent occupancy of lipid molecules at this emergent coupling interface, suggesting a key role of lipids in hyperpolarization-dependent gating. Our model provides a rationale for previous observa-tions and a possible mechanism for regulation of HCN channels by the lipidic components of the membrane.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere80303
StatePublished - 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Interplay between VSD, pore, and membrane lipids in electromechanical coupling in HCN channels'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this