Observation of nanoimpact events of catalase on diamond ultramicroelectrodes by direct electron transfer.

Chemical communications (Cambridge, England) 53 (2017) 8332-8335

L Jiang, I Santiago, J Foord

We report electrochemical detection of single-catalase collisions at diamond ultramicroelectrodes and show the operative mechanism involves direct enzyme-mediated charge transfer between electrode and solution. Hydrogen peroxide increases the collision frequency, which fluorescence correlation spectroscopy diffusion measurements suggest stems from an increase in the diffusion rate as the underlying cause.

Structural Mechanisms of Mechanosensitivity in the TREK-2 K2P Potassium Channel


SJ Tucker

The structural movement of the TM4 segment during pore gating in TREK1 channels


F Schulz, M Rapedius, SJ Tucker, T Baukrowitz

A conserved drug-binding site controls the selectivity filter gate in K2P K+ channels


M Schewer, F Schulz, U Mert, H Sun, T Koehler, M Tegtmeier, M Musinszki, H Belabed, M Nazare, SJ Tucker, T Baukrowitz

The effects of stretch activation on ionic selectivity of the TREK-2 K2P K+ channel.

Channels (Austin, Tex.) (2017) 1-5

E Nematian-Ardestani, V Jarerattanachat, P Aryal, MSP Sansom, SJ Tucker

The TREK-2 (KCNK10) K2P potassium channel can be regulated by variety of polymodal stimuli including pressure. In a recent study, we demonstrated that this mechanosensitive K+ channel responds to changes in membrane tension by undergoing a major structural change from its 'down' state to the more expanded 'up' state conformation. These changes are mostly restricted to the lower part of the protein within the bilayer, but are allosterically coupled to the primary gating mechanism located within the selectivity filter. However, any such structural changes within the filter also have the potential to alter ionic selectivity and there are reports that some K2Ps, including TREK channels, exhibit a dynamic ionic selectivity. In this addendum to our previous study we have therefore examined whether the selectivity of TREK-2 is altered by stretch activation. Our results reveal that the filter remains stable and highly selective for K+ over Na+ during stretch activation, and that permeability to a range of other cations (Rb+, Cs+ and NH4+) also does not change. The asymmetric structural changes that occur during stretch activation therefore allow the channel to respond to changes in membrane tension without a loss of K+ selectivity.

Dynamic role of the tether helix in PIP2-dependent gating of a G protein-gated potassium channel.

The Journal of general physiology (2017)

E Lacin, P Aryal, IW Glaaser, K Bodhinathan, E Tsai, N Marsh, SJ Tucker, MSP Sansom, PA Slesinger

G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels control neuronal excitability in the brain and are implicated in several different neurological diseases. The anionic phospholipid phosphatidylinositol 4,5 bisphosphate (PIP2) is an essential cofactor for GIRK channel gating, but the precise mechanism by which PIP2 opens GIRK channels remains poorly understood. Previous structural studies have revealed several highly conserved, positively charged residues in the "tether helix" (C-linker) that interact with the negatively charged PIP2 However, these crystal structures of neuronal GIRK channels in complex with PIP2 provide only snapshots of PIP2's interaction with the channel and thus lack details about the gating transitions triggered by PIP2 binding. Here, our functional studies reveal that one of these conserved basic residues in GIRK2, Lys200 (6'K), supports a complex and dynamic interaction with PIP2 When Lys200 is mutated to an uncharged amino acid, it activates the channel by enhancing the interaction with PIP2 Atomistic molecular dynamic simulations of neuronal GIRK2 with the same 6' substitution reveal an open GIRK2 channel with PIP2 molecules adopting novel positions. This dynamic interaction with PIP2 may explain the intrinsic low open probability of GIRK channels and the mechanism underlying activation by G protein Gβγ subunits and ethanol.

In vivo single-RNA tracking shows that most tRNA diffuses freely in live bacteria

Nucleic Acids Research 45 (2017) 926-937

A Plochowietz, I Farrell, Z Smilansky, BS Cooperman, AN Kapanidis

Bilayer-Mediated Structural Transitions Control Mechanosensitivity of the TREK-2 K2P Channel.

Structure (London, England : 1993) 25 (2017) 708-718.e2

P Aryal, V Jarerattanachat, MV Clausen, M Schewe, C McClenaghan, L Argent, LJ Conrad, YY Dong, ACW Pike, EP Carpenter, T Baukrowitz, MSP Sansom, SJ Tucker

The mechanosensitive two-pore domain (K2P) K+ channels (TREK-1, TREK-2, and TRAAK) are important for mechanical and thermal nociception. However, the mechanisms underlying their gating by membrane stretch remain controversial. Here we use molecular dynamics simulations to examine their behavior in a lipid bilayer. We show that TREK-2 moves from the "down" to "up" conformation in direct response to membrane stretch, and examine the role of the transmembrane pressure profile in this process. Furthermore, we show how state-dependent interactions with lipids affect the movement of TREK-2, and how stretch influences both the inner pore and selectivity filter. Finally, we present functional studies that demonstrate why direct pore block by lipid tails does not represent the principal mechanism of mechanogating. Overall, this study provides a dynamic structural insight into K2P channel mechanosensitivity and illustrates how the structure of a eukaryotic mechanosensitive ion channel responds to changes in forces within the bilayer.

A BEST example of channel structure annotation by molecular simulation.

Channels (Austin, Tex.) 11 (2017) 347-353

S Rao, G Klesse, PJ Stansfeld, SJ Tucker, MSP Sansom

An increasing number of ion channel structures are being determined. This generates a need for computational tools to enable functional annotation of channel structures. However, several studies of ion channel and model pores have indicated that the physical dimensions of a pore are not always a reliable indicator of its conductive status. This is due to the unusual behavior of water within nano-confined spaces, resulting in a phenomenon referred to as "hydrophobic gating". We have recently demonstrated how simulating the behavior of water within an ion channel pore can be used to predict its conductive status. In this addendum to our study, we apply this method to compare the recently solved structure of a mutant of the bestrophin chloride channel BEST1 with that of the wild-type channel. Our results support the hypothesis of a hydrophobic gate within the narrow neck of BEST1. This provides further validation that this simulation approach provides the basis for an accurate and computationally efficient tool for the functional annotation of ion channel structures.

Amphiphilic DNA tiles for controlled insertion and 2D assembly on fluid lipid membranes: the effect on mechanical properties

Nanoscale 9 (2017) 3051-3058

C Dohno, S Makishi, K Nakatani, S Contera

Structural and Functional Response of a Mechanosensitive K2P K+ Channel to Asymmetric Membrane Tension


V Jarerattanachat, MV Clausen, P Aryal, EP Carpenter, MSP Sansom, SJ Tucker

A Non-canonical Voltage-Sensing Mechanism Controls Gating in K2P K(+) Channels.

Cell 164 (2016) 937-949

M Schewe, E Nematian-Ardestani, H Sun, M Musinszki, S Cordeiro, G Bucci, BL de Groot, SJ Tucker, M Rapedius, T Baukrowitz

Two-pore domain (K2P) K(+) channels are major regulators of excitability that endow cells with an outwardly rectifying background "leak" conductance. In some K2P channels, strong voltage-dependent activation has been observed, but the mechanism remains unresolved because they lack a canonical voltage-sensing domain. Here, we show voltage-dependent gating is common to most K2P channels and that this voltage sensitivity originates from the movement of three to four ions into the high electric field of an inactive selectivity filter. Overall, this ion-flux gating mechanism generates a one-way "check valve" within the filter because outward movement of K(+) induces filter opening, whereas inward movement promotes inactivation. Furthermore, many physiological stimuli switch off this flux gating mode to convert K2P channels into a leak conductance. These findings provide insight into the functional plasticity of a K(+)-selective filter and also refine our understanding of K2P channels and the mechanisms by which ion channels can sense voltage.

The role of the priming loop in Influenza A virus RNA synthesis.

Nature microbiology 1 (2016)

AJ Te Velthuis, NC Robb, AN Kapanidis, E Fodor

RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRps) are used by RNA viruses to replicate and transcribe their RNA genomes1. They adopt a closed, right-handed fold with conserved subdomains called palm, fingers, and thumb1,2. Conserved RdRp motifs A-F coordinate the viral RNA template, NTPs, and magnesium ions to facilitate nucleotide condensation1. For the initiation of RNA synthesis, most RdRps use either a primer-dependent or de novo mechanism3. The Influenza A virus RdRp in contrast, uses a capped RNA oligonucleotide to initiate transcription, and a combination of terminal and internal de novo initiation for replication4. To understand how the Influenza A virus RdRp coordinates these processes, we analysed the function of a thumb subdomain β-hairpin using initiation, elongation, and single-molecule FRET assays. Our data shows that this β-hairpin is essential for terminal initiation during replication, but auxiliary for internal initiation and transcription. Analysis of individual residues in the tip of the β-hairpin shows that PB1 proline 651 is critical for efficient RNA synthesis in vitro and in cell culture. Overall, this work advances our understanding of Influenza A virus RNA synthesis and identifies the initiation platform of viral replication.

Developing a Single-Molecule Fluorescence Tool to Quantify DNA Damage

BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL 110 (2016) 164A-164A

HL Miller, AJM Wollman, KE Dunn, AM Hirst, SA Contera, S Johnson, D O'Connell, P O'Toole, AM Tyrrell, MC Leake

An autonomous molecular assembler for programmable chemical synthesis.

Nature chemistry 8 (2016) 542-548

W Meng, RA Muscat, ML McKee, PJ Milnes, AH El-Sagheer, J Bath, BG Davis, T Brown, RK O'Reilly, AJ Turberfield

Molecular machines that assemble polymers in a programmed sequence are fundamental to life. They are also an achievable goal of nanotechnology. Here, we report synthetic molecular machinery made from DNA that controls and records the formation of covalent bonds. We show that an autonomous cascade of DNA hybridization reactions can create oligomers, from building blocks linked by olefin or peptide bonds, with a sequence defined by a reconfigurable molecular program. The system can also be programmed to achieve combinatorial assembly. The sequence of assembly reactions and thus the structure of each oligomer synthesized is recorded in a DNA molecule, which enables this information to be recovered by PCR amplification followed by DNA sequencing.

The Formal Language and Design Principles of Autonomous DNA Walker Circuits.

ACS synthetic biology 5 (2016) 878-884

MA Boemo, AE Lucas, AJ Turberfield, L Cardelli

Simple computation can be performed using the interactions between single-stranded molecules of DNA. These interactions are typically toehold-mediated strand displacement reactions in a well-mixed solution. We demonstrate that a DNA circuit with tethered reactants is a distributed system and show how it can be described as a stochastic Petri net. The system can be verified by mapping the Petri net onto a continuous-time Markov chain, which can also be used to find an optimal design for the circuit. This theoretical machinery can be applied to create software that automatically designs a DNA circuit, linking an abstract propositional formula to a physical DNA computation system that is capable of evaluating it. We conclude by introducing example mechanisms that can implement such circuits experimentally and discuss their individual strengths and weaknesses.

RNA Polymerase Pausing during Initial Transcription.

Molecular cell 63 (2016) 939-950

D Duchi, DL Bauer, L Fernandez, G Evans, N Robb, LC Hwang, K Gryte, A Tomescu, P Zawadzki, Z Morichaud, K Brodolin, AN Kapanidis

In bacteria, RNA polymerase (RNAP) initiates transcription by synthesizing short transcripts that are either released or extended to allow RNAP to escape from the promoter. The mechanism of initial transcription is unclear due to the presence of transient intermediates and molecular heterogeneity. Here, we studied initial transcription on a lac promoter using single-molecule fluorescence observations of DNA scrunching on immobilized transcription complexes. Our work revealed a long pause ("initiation pause," ∼20 s) after synthesis of a 6-mer RNA; such pauses can serve as regulatory checkpoints. Region sigma 3.2, which contains a loop blocking the RNA exit channel, was a major pausing determinant. We also obtained evidence for RNA backtracking during abortive initial transcription and for additional pausing prior to escape. We summarized our work in a model for initial transcription, in which pausing is controlled by a complex set of determinants that modulate the transition from a 6- to a 7-nt RNA.

Polymodal activation of the TREK-2 K2P channel produces structurally distinct open states.

The Journal of general physiology 147 (2016) 497-505

C McClenaghan, M Schewe, P Aryal, EP Carpenter, T Baukrowitz, SJ Tucker

The TREK subfamily of two-pore domain (K2P) K(+) channels exhibit polymodal gating by a wide range of physical and chemical stimuli. Crystal structures now exist for these channels in two main states referred to as the "up" and "down" conformations. However, recent studies have resulted in contradictory and mutually exclusive conclusions about the functional (i.e., conductive) status of these two conformations. To address this problem, we have used the state-dependent TREK-2 inhibitor norfluoxetine that can only bind to the down state, thereby allowing us to distinguish between these two conformations when activated by different stimuli. Our results reconcile these previously contradictory gating models by demonstrating that activation by pressure, temperature, voltage, and pH produce more than one structurally distinct open state and reveal that channel activation does not simply involve switching between the up and down conformations. These results also highlight the diversity of structural mechanisms that K2P channels use to integrate polymodal gating signals.

Dominant-Negative Effect of a Missense Variant in the TASK-2 (KCNK5) K+ Channel Associated with Balkan Endemic Nephropathy.

PLoS ONE 11 (2016) e0156456-

AP Reed, G Bucci, F Abd-Wahab, SJ Tucker

TASK-2, a member of the Two-Pore Domain (K2P) subfamily of K+ channels, is encoded by the KCNK5 gene. The channel is expressed primarily in renal epithelial tissues and a potentially deleterious missense variant in KCNK5 has recently been shown to be prevalent amongst patients predisposed to the development of Balkan Endemic Nephropathy (BEN), a chronic tubulointerstitial renal disease of unknown etiology. In this study we show that this variant (T108P) results in a complete loss of channel function and is associated with a major reduction in TASK-2 channel subunits at the cell surface. Furthermore, these mutant subunits have a suppressive or 'dominant-negative' effect on channel function when coexpressed with wild-type subunits. This missense variant is located at the extracellular surface of the M2 transmembrane helix and by using a combination of structural modelling and further functional analysis we also show that this highly-conserved threonine residue is critical for the correct function of other K2P channels. These results therefore provide further structural and functional insights into the possible pathophysiological effects of this missense variant in TASK-2.

Solution-Based Single-Molecule FRET Studies of K(+) Channel Gating in a Lipid Bilayer.

Biophysical Journal 110 (2016) 2663-2670

EE Sadler, AN Kapanidis, SJ Tucker

Ion channels are dynamic multimeric proteins that often undergo multiple unsynchronized structural movements as they switch between their open and closed states. Such structural changes are difficult to measure within the context of a native lipid bilayer and have often been monitored via macroscopic changes in Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) between probes attached to different parts of the protein. However, the resolution of this approach is limited by ensemble averaging of structurally heterogeneous subpopulations. These problems can be overcome by measurement of FRET in single molecules, but this presents many challenges, in particular the ability to control labeling of subunits within a multimeric protein with acceptor and donor fluorophores, as well as the requirement to image large numbers of individual molecules in a membrane environment. To address these challenges, we randomly labeled tetrameric KirBac1.1 potassium channels, reconstituted them into lipid nanodiscs, and performed single-molecule FRET confocal microscopy with alternating-laser excitation as the channels diffused in solution. These solution-based single-molecule FRET measurements of a multimeric ion channel in a lipid bilayer have allowed us to probe the structural changes that occur upon channel activation and inhibition. Our results provide direct evidence of the twist-to-shrink movement of the helix bundle crossing during channel gating and demonstrate how this method might be applied to real-time structural studies of ion channel gating.