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Gating-modifier toxins inhibit voltage-gated ion channels by binding the voltage sensors (VS) and altering the energetics of voltage-dependent gating. These toxins are thought to gain access to the VS via the membrane (i.e., by partitioning from water into the membrane before binding the VS). We used serial multiscale molecular-dynamics (MD) simulations, via a combination of coarse-grained (CG) and atomistic (AT) simulations, to study how the toxin VSTx1, which inhibits the archeabacterial voltage-gated potassium channel KvAP, interacts with an isolated membrane-embedded VS domain. In the CG simulations, VSTx1, which was initially located in water, partitioned into the headgroup/water interface of the lipid bilayer before binding the VS. The CG configurations were used to generate AT representations of the system, which were subjected to AT-MD to further evaluate the stability of the complex and refine the predicted VS/toxin interface. VSTx1 interacted with a binding site on the VS formed by the C-terminus of S1, the S1-S2 linker, and the N-terminus of S4. The predicted VS/toxin interactions are suggestive of toxin-mediated perturbations of the interaction between the VS and the pore domain of Kv channels, and of the membrane. Our simulations support a membrane-access mechanism of inhibition of Kv channels by VS toxins. Overall, the results show that serial multiscale MD simulations may be used to model a two-stage process of protein-bilayer and protein-protein interactions within a membrane.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





1558 - 1565


Lipid Bilayers, Models, Molecular, Molecular Dynamics Simulation, Peptides, Phosphatidylcholines, Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated, Spider Venoms