The tremorgenic fungal alkaloid paxilline (PAX) is a commonly used specific inhibitor of the large-conductance, voltage- and Ca2+-dependent BK-type K+ channel. PAX inhibits BK channels by selective interaction with closed states. BK inhibition by PAX is best characterized by the idea that PAX gains access to the channel through the central cavity of the BK channel, and that only a single PAX molecule can interact with the BK channel at a time. The notion that PAX reaches its binding site via the central cavity and involves only a single PAX molecule would be consistent with binding on the axis of the permeation pathway, similar to classical open channel block and inconsistent with the observation that PAX selectively inhibits closed channels. To explore the potential sites of interaction of PAX with the BK channel, we undertook a computational analysis of the interaction of PAX with the BK channel pore gate domain guided by recently available liganded (open) and metal-free (closed) Aplysia BK channel structures. The analysis unambiguously identified a preferred position of PAX occupancy that accounts for all previously described features of PAX inhibition, including state dependence, G311 sensitivity, stoichiometry, and central cavity accessibility. This PAX-binding pose in closed BK channels is supported by additional functional results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1026
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 14 2020


  • BK channels
  • Ca2- and voltage-gated K channels
  • K channels
  • MSlo1 channels
  • Paxilline


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