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Molecular dynamics simulations of a bacterial potassium channel (KcsA) embedded in a phospholipid bilayer reveal significant differences in interactions of the selectivity filter with K(+) compared with Na(+) ions. K(+) ions and water molecules within the filter undergo concerted single-file motion in which they translocate between adjacent sites within the filter on a nanosecond timescale. In contrast, Na(+) ions remain bound to sites within the filter and do not exhibit translocation on a nanosecond timescale. Furthermore, entry of a K(+) ion into the filter from the extracellular mouth is observed, whereas this does not occur for a Na(+) ion. Whereas K(+) ions prefer to sit within a cage of eight oxygen atoms of the filter, Na(+) ions prefer to interact with a ring of four oxygen atoms plus two water molecules. These differences in interactions in the selectivity filter may contribute to the selectivity of KcsA for K(+) ions (in addition to the differences in dehydration energy between K(+) and Na(+)) and the block of KcsA by internal Na(+) ions. In our simulations the selectivity filter exhibits significant flexibility in response to changes in ion/protein interactions, with a somewhat greater distortion induced by Na(+) than by K(+) ions.


Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





633 - 645


Biophysical Phenomena, Biophysics, Computer Simulation, Ions, Models, Molecular, Models, Theoretical, Oxygen, Potassium, Potassium Channels, Protein Binding, Sodium, Software, Time Factors, Water