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Channel forming peptides (CFPs) are amphipathic peptides, of length ca. 20 residues, which adopt an alpha-helical conformation in the presence of lipid bilayers and form ion channels with electrophysiological properties comparable to those of ion channel proteins. We have modelled CFP channels as bundles of parallel trans-bilayer helices surrounding a central ion-permeable pore. Ion-channel interactions have been explored via accessible surface area calculations, and via evaluation of changes in van der Waals and electrostatic energies as a K+ ion is translated along the length of the pore. Two CFPs have been modelled: (a) zervamicin-A1-16, a synthetic apolar peptaibol related to alamethicin, and (b) delta-toxin from Staphylococcus aureus. Both of these CFPs have previously been shown to form ion channels in planar lipid bilayers, and have been shown to have predominantly helical conformations. Zervamicin-A1-16 channels were modelled as bundles of 4 to 8 parallel helices. Two related helix bundle geometries were explored. K(+)-channel interactions have been shown to involve exposed backbone carbonyl oxygen atoms. delta-Toxin channels were modelled as bundles of 6 parallel helices. Residues Q3, D11 and D18 generate favourable K(+)-channel interactions. Rotation of W15 about its C beta-C gamma bond has been shown to be capable of occluding the central pore, and is discussed as a possible model for sidechain conformational changes in relation to ion channel gating.


Journal article


Eur Biophys J

Publication Date





229 - 240


Amino Acid Sequence, Bacterial Toxins, Biophysical Phenomena, Biophysics, Ion Channel Gating, Ion Channels, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Peptaibols, Peptides, Potassium Channels, Protein Conformation, Thermodynamics