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Isolated pore-lining helices derived from three types of K-channel have been analyzed in terms of their structural and dynamic features in nanosecond molecular dynamics (MD) simulations while spanning a lipid bilayer. The helices were 1) M1 and M2 from the bacterial channel KcsA (Streptomyces lividans), 2) S5 and S6 from the voltage-gated (Kv) channel Shaker (Drosophila melanogaster), and 3) M1 and M2 from the inward rectifier channel Kir6.2 (human). In the case of the Kv and Kir channels, for which x-ray structures are not known, both short and long models of each helix were considered. Each helix was incorporated into a lipid bilayer containing 127 palmitoyloleoylphosphatidylcholine molecules, which was solvated with approximately 4000 water molecules, yielding approximately 20, 000 atoms in each system. Nanosecond MD simulations were used to aid the definition of optimal lengths for the helix models from Kv and Kir. Thus the study corresponds to a total simulation time of 10 ns. The inner pore-lining helices (M2 in KcsA and Kir, S6 in Shaker) appear to be slightly more flexible than the outer pore-lining helices. In particular, the Pro-Val-Pro motif of S6 results in flexibility about a molecular hinge, as was suggested by previous in vacuo simulations (, Biopolymers. 39:503-515). Such flexibility may be related to gating in the corresponding intact channel protein molecules. Analysis of H-bonds revealed interactions with both water and lipid molecules in the water/bilayer interfacial region. Such H-bonding interactions may lock the helices in place in the bilayer during the folding of the channel protein (as is implicit in the two-stage model of membrane protein folding). Aromatic residues at the extremities of the helices underwent complex motions on both short (<10 ps) and long (>100 ps) time scales.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





79 - 92


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Bacterial Proteins, Computer Simulation, Drosophila Proteins, Drosophila melanogaster, Humans, Hydrogen Bonding, Kinetics, Lipid Bilayers, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Phosphatidylcholines, Potassium Channels, Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying, Protein Structure, Secondary, Shaker Superfamily of Potassium Channels, Streptomyces