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The transbilayer pores formed by ion channel proteins contain extended columns of water molecules. The dynamic properties of such waters have been suggested to differ from those of water in its bulk state. Molecular dynamics simulations of ion channel models solvated within and at the mouths of their pores are used to investigate the dynamics and structure of intra-pore water. Three classes of channel model are investigated: a) parallel bundles of hydrophobic (Ala20) alpha-helices; b) eight-stranded hydrophobic (Ala10) antiparallel beta-barrels; and c) parallel bundles of amphipathic alpha-helices (namely, delta-toxin, alamethicin, and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor M2 helix). The self-diffusion coefficients of water molecules within the pores are reduced significantly relative to bulk water in all of the models. Water rotational reorientation rates are also reduced within the pores, particularly in those pores formed by alpha-helix bundles. In the narrowest pore (that of the Ala20 pentameric helix bundle) self-diffusion coefficients and reorientation rates of intra-pore waters are reduced by approximately an order of magnitude relative to bulk solvent. In Ala20 helix bundles the water dipoles orient antiparallel to the helix dipoles. Such dipole/dipole interaction between water and pore may explain how water-filled ion channels may be formed by hydrophobic helices. In the bundles of amphipathic helices the orientation of water dipoles is modulated by the presence of charged side chains. No preferential orientation of water dipoles relative to the pore axis is observed in the hydrophobic beta-barrel models.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





1643 - 1661


Alamethicin, Amino Acid Sequence, Bacterial Toxins, Biophysical Phenomena, Biophysics, Computer Simulation, Ion Channels, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Protein Structure, Secondary, Receptors, Nicotinic, Thermodynamics, Water