Activation gating of hERG potassium channels: S6 glycines are not required as gating hinges

Rachael M. Hardman, Phillip J. Stansfeld, Sarah Dalibalta, Michael J. Sutcliffe, John S. Mitcheson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The opening of ion channels is proposed to arise from bending of the pore inner helices that enables them to pivot away from the central axis creating a cytosolic opening for ion diffusion. The flexibility of the inner helices is suggested to occur either at a conserved glycine located adjacent to the selectivity filter (glycine gating hinge) and/or at a second site occupied by glycine or proline containing motifs. Sequence alignment with other K + channels shows that hERG possesses glycine residues (Gly 648 and Gly657) at each of these putative hinge sites. In apparent contrast to the hinge hypotheses, substitution of both glycine residues for alanine causes little effect on either the voltage-dependence or kinetics of channel activation, and open state block by intracellular blockers. Substitution of the glycines with larger hydrophobic residues causes a greater propensity for the channel to open. We propose that in contrast to Shaker the pore of hERG is intrinsically more stable in the open than the closed conformation and that substitution at Gly648 or Gly657 further shifts the gating equilibrium to favor the open state. Molecular dynamics simulations indicate the S6 helices of hERG are inherently flexible, even in the absence of the glycine residues. Thus hERG activation gating exhibits important differences to other Kv channels. Our findings indicate that the hERG inner helix glycine residues are required for the tight packing of the channel helices and that the flexibility afforded by glycine or proline residues is not universally required for activation gating. © 2007 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)31972-31981
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
    Issue number44
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2007


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