26 Scopus citations


For those interested in the machinery of ion channel gating, the Ca2+ and voltage-activated BK K+ channel provides a compelling topic for investigation, by virtue of its dual allosteric regulation by both voltage and intracellular Ca2+ and because its large-single channel conductance facilitates detailed kinetic analysis. Over the years, biophysical analyses have illuminated details of the allosteric regulation of BK channels and revealed insights into the mechanism of BK gating, e.g., inner cavity size and accessibility and voltage sensor-pore coupling. Now the publication of two structures of an Aplysia californica BK channel-one liganded and one metal free-promises to reinvigorate functional studies and interpretation of biophysical results. The new structures confirm some of the previous functional inferences but also suggest new perspectives regarding cooperativity between Ca2+-binding sites and the relationship between voltage- and Ca2+-dependent gating. Here we consider the extent to which the two structures explain previous functional data on pore-domain properties, voltage-sensor motions, and divalent cation binding and activation of the channel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)985-1007
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


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