A hydrophobic barrier deep within the inner pore of the TWIK-1 K2P potassium channel.
Aryal P., Abd-Wahab F., Bucci G., Sansom MS., Tucker SJ.
Recent X-ray crystal structures of the two-pore domain (K2P) family of potassium channels have revealed a unique structural architecture at the point where the cytoplasmic bundle-crossing gate is found in most other tetrameric K(+) channels. However, despite the apparently open nature of the inner pore in the TWIK-1 (K2P1/KCNK1) crystal structure, the reasons underlying its low levels of functional activity remain unclear. In this study, we use a combination of molecular dynamics simulations and functional validation to demonstrate that TWIK-1 possesses a hydrophobic barrier deep within the inner pore, and that stochastic dewetting of this hydrophobic constriction acts as a major barrier to ion conduction. These results not only provide an important insight into the mechanisms which control TWIK-1 channel activity, but also have important implications for our understanding of how ion permeation may be controlled in similar ion channels and pores.