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Mastoparan, a 14-residue peptide, has been investigated with respect to its ability to form ion channels in planar lipid bilayers. In the presence of 0.3-3.0 μM mastoparan, two types of activity are seen. Type I activity is characterized by discrete channel openings, exhibiting multiple conductance levels in the range 15-700 pS. Type II activity is characterized by transient increases in bilayer conductance, up to a maximum of about 650 pS. Both type I and type II activities are voltage dependent. Channel activation occurs if the compartment containing mastoparan is held at a negative potential. Channel formation is dependent on ionic strength; channel openings are only observed at KCl concentrations of 0.3 M or above. Furthermore, raising the concentration of KCl to 3.0 M stabilizes the open form of the channel. Mastoparan channels are weakly cation selective, P(K/Cl) ~ 2. A 12-residue analogue, des-Ile1,Asn2-mastoparan, preferentially forms type I channels. The ion channels formed by these short peptides may be modelled in terms of bundles of transmembrane α-helices.

Original publication




Journal article


Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Publication Date





383 - 400