The voltage sensitivity of voltage-gated cation channels is primarily attributed to conformational changes of a four transmembrane segment voltage-sensing domain, conserved across many levels of biological complexity. We have identified a remarkable point mutation that confers significant voltage dependence to Kir6.2, a ligand-gated channel that lacks any canonical voltage-sensing domain. Similar to voltage-dependent Kv channels, the Kir6.2[L157E] mutant exhibits time-dependent activation upon membrane depolarization, resulting in an outwardly rectifying current-voltage relationship. This voltage dependence is convergent with the intrinsic ligand-dependent gating mechanisms of Kir6.2, since increasing the membrane PIP2 content saturates Po and eliminates voltage dependence, whereas voltage activation is more dramatic when channel Po is reduced by application of ATP or poly-lysine. These experiments thus demonstrate an inherent voltage dependence of gating in a "ligand-gated" K+ channel, and thereby provide a new view of voltagedependent gating mechanisms in ion channels. Most interestingly, the voltage- and ligand-dependent gating of Kir6.2[L157E] is highly sensitive to intracellular [K+], indicating an interaction between ion permeation and gating. While these two key features of channel function are classically dealt with separately, the results provide a framework for understanding their interaction, which is likely to be a general, if latent, feature of the superfamily of cation channels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere100031
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


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