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Phospholamban is a small membrane protein which can form cation selective ion channels in lipid bilayers. Each subunit contains a single, largely hydrophobic transmembrane helix. The helices are thought to assemble as a pentameric and approximately parallel bundle surrounding a central pore. A model of this assembly (PDB code IPSL) has been used as the starting point for molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of a system consisting of the pentameric helix bundle, plus 217 water molecules located within and at either mouth of the pore. Interhelix distance restraints were employed to maintain the integrity of the helix bundle during a 500 ps MD simulation. Water molecules within the pore exhibited reduced diffusional and rotational mobility. Interactions between the alpha-helix dipoles and the water dipoles, the latter aligned anti-parallel to the former, contribute to the stability of the system. Analysis of the potential energy of interaction of a K+ ion as it was moved through the pore suggested that unfavourable interactions of the cation with the aligned helix dipoles at the N-terminal mouth were overcome by favourable ion-water interactions. Comparable analysis for a Cl ion revealed that the ion-(pore + water) interactions were unfavourable along the whole of the pore, increasingly so from the N- to the C-terminal mouth. Overall, the interaction energy profiles were consistent with a pore selective for cations over anions. Pore radius profiles were used to predict a channel conductance of 50 to 70 ps in 0.2 M KCl, which compares well with an experimental value of 100 ps.


Journal article


Biophys Chem

Publication Date





269 - 281


Calcium-Binding Proteins, Chlorides, Computer Simulation, Electric Conductivity, Ion Channels, Membrane Proteins, Models, Molecular, Potassium, Protein Conformation, Protein Structure, Secondary, Water