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A parallel bundle of transmembrane (TM) alpha-helices surrounding a central pore is present in several classes of ion channel, including the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR). We have modeled bundles of hydrophobic and of amphipathic helices using simulated annealing via restrained molecular dynamics. Bundles of Ala20 helices, with N = 4, 5, or 6 helices/bundle were generated. For all three N values the helices formed left-handed coiled coils, with pitches ranging from 160 A (N = 4) to 240 A (N = 6). Pore radius profiles revealed constrictions at residues 3, 6, 10, 13, and 17. A left-handed coiled coil and a similar pattern of pore constrictions were observed for N = 5 bundles of Leu20. In contrast, N = 5 bundles of Ile20 formed right-handed coiled coils, reflecting loosened packing of helices containing beta-branched side chains. Bundles formed by each of two classes of amphipathic helices were examined: (a) M2a, M2b, and M2c derived from sequences of M2 helices of nAChR; and (b) (LSSLLSL)3, a synthetic channel-forming peptide. Both classes of amphipathic helix formed left-handed coiled coils. For (LSSLLSL)3 the pitch of the coil increased as N increased from 4 to 6. The M2c N = 5 helix bundle is discussed in the context of possible models of the pore domain of nAChR.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





1501 - 1515


Amino Acid Sequence, Computer Simulation, Ion Channels, Macromolecular Substances, Models, Molecular, Models, Theoretical, Molecular Sequence Data, Protein Structure, Secondary, Receptors, Nicotinic, Software