Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Ion channels are dynamic multimeric proteins that often undergo multiple unsynchronized structural movements as they switch between their open and closed states. Such structural changes are difficult to measure within the context of a native lipid bilayer and have often been monitored via macroscopic changes in Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) between probes attached to different parts of the protein. However, the resolution of this approach is limited by ensemble averaging of structurally heterogeneous subpopulations. These problems can be overcome by measurement of FRET in single molecules, but this presents many challenges, in particular the ability to control labeling of subunits within a multimeric protein with acceptor and donor fluorophores, as well as the requirement to image large numbers of individual molecules in a membrane environment. To address these challenges, we randomly labeled tetrameric KirBac1.1 potassium channels, reconstituted them into lipid nanodiscs, and performed single-molecule FRET confocal microscopy with alternating-laser excitation as the channels diffused in solution. These solution-based single-molecule FRET measurements of a multimeric ion channel in a lipid bilayer have allowed us to probe the structural changes that occur upon channel activation and inhibition. Our results provide direct evidence of the twist-to-shrink movement of the helix bundle crossing during channel gating and demonstrate how this method might be applied to real-time structural studies of ion channel gating.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





2663 - 2670


Bacterial Proteins, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Ion Channel Gating, Lipid Bilayers, Microscopy, Confocal, Models, Molecular, Nanostructures, Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying, Protein Multimerization, Single Molecule Imaging, Solutions