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.) 11 (2017) 482-486

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.

Asymmetric mechanosensitivity in a eukaryotic ion channel.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114 (2017) E8343-E8351

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

Living organisms perceive and respond to a diverse range of mechanical stimuli. A variety of mechanosensitive ion channels have evolved to facilitate these responses, but the molecular mechanisms underlying their exquisite sensitivity to different forces within the membrane remains unclear. TREK-2 is a mammalian two-pore domain (K2P) K+ channel important for mechanosensation, and recent studies have shown how increased membrane tension favors a more expanded conformation of the channel within the membrane. These channels respond to a complex range of mechanical stimuli, however, and it is uncertain how differences in tension between the inner and outer leaflets of the membrane contribute to this process. To examine this, we have combined computational approaches with functional studies of oppositely oriented single channels within the same lipid bilayer. Our results reveal how the asymmetric structure of TREK-2 allows it to distinguish a broad profile of forces within the membrane, and illustrate the mechanisms that eukaryotic mechanosensitive ion channels may use to detect and fine-tune their responses to different mechanical stimuli.

The Evolution of DNA-Templated Synthesis as a Tool for Materials Discovery.

Accounts of chemical research 50 (2017) 2496-2509

RK O'Reilly, AJ Turberfield, TR Wilks

Precise control over reactivity and molecular structure is a fundamental goal of the chemical sciences. Billions of years of evolution by natural selection have resulted in chemical systems capable of information storage, self-replication, catalysis, capture and production of light, and even cognition. In all these cases, control over molecular structure is required to achieve a particular function: without structural control, function may be impaired, unpredictable, or impossible. The search for molecules with a desired function is often achieved by synthesizing a combinatorial library, which contains many or all possible combinations of a set of chemical building blocks (BBs), and then screening this library to identify "successful" structures. The largest libraries made by conventional synthesis are currently of the order of 108 distinct molecules. To put this in context, there are 1013 ways of arranging the 21 proteinogenic amino acids in chains up to 10 units long. Given that we know that a number of these compounds have potent biological activity, it would be highly desirable to be able to search them all to identify leads for new drug molecules. Large libraries of oligonucleotides can be synthesized combinatorially and translated into peptides using systems based on biological replication such as mRNA display, with selected molecules identified by DNA sequencing; but these methods are limited to BBs that are compatible with cellular machinery. In order to search the vast tracts of chemical space beyond nucleic acids and natural peptides, an alternative approach is required. DNA-templated synthesis (DTS) could enable us to meet this challenge. DTS controls chemical product formation by using the specificity of DNA hybridization to bring selected reactants into close proximity, and is capable of the programmed synthesis of many distinct products in the same reaction vessel. By making use of dynamic, programmable DNA processes, it is possible to engineer a system that can translate instructions coded as a sequence of DNA bases into a chemical structure-a process analogous to the action of the ribosome in living organisms but with the potential to create a much more chemically diverse set of products. It is also possible to ensure that each product molecule is tagged with its identifying DNA sequence. Compound libraries synthesized in this way can be exposed to selection against suitable targets, enriching successful molecules. The encoding DNA can then be amplified using the polymerase chain reaction and decoded by DNA sequencing. More importantly, the DNA instruction sequences can be mutated and reused during multiple rounds of amplification, translation, and selection. In other words, DTS could be used as the foundation for a system of synthetic molecular evolution, which could allow us to efficiently search a vast chemical space. This has huge potential to revolutionize materials discovery-imagine being able to evolve molecules for light harvesting, or catalysts for CO2 fixation. The field of DTS has developed to the point where a wide variety of reactions can be performed on a DNA template. Complex architectures and autonomous "DNA robots" have been implemented for the controlled assembly of BBs, and these mechanisms have in turn enabled the one-pot synthesis of large combinatorial libraries. Indeed, DTS libraries are being exploited by pharmaceutical companies and have already found their way into drug lead discovery programs. This Account explores the processes involved in DTS and highlights the challenges that remain in creating a general system for molecular discovery by evolution.

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.

Regulation of Two-pore Domain K plus Channels by Natural Effectors and Pharmacological Agents


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

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

Reconstruction of bacterial transcription-coupled repair at single-molecule resolution

Nature 536 (2016) 234-237

J Fan, M Leroux-Coyau, NJ Savery, TR Strick

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.

Functional Annotation of Ion Channel Structures by Molecular Simulation.

Structure (London, England : 1993) 24 (2016) 2207-2216

JL Trick, S Chelvaniththilan, G Klesse, P Aryal, EJ Wallace, SJ Tucker, MSP Sansom

Ion channels play key roles in cell membranes, and recent advances are yielding an increasing number of structures. However, their functional relevance is often unclear and better tools are required for their functional annotation. In sub-nanometer pores such as ion channels, hydrophobic gating has been shown to promote dewetting to produce a functionally closed (i.e., non-conductive) state. Using the serotonin receptor (5-HT3R) structure as an example, we demonstrate the use of molecular dynamics to aid the functional annotation of channel structures via simulation of the behavior of water within the pore. Three increasingly complex simulation analyses are described: water equilibrium densities; single-ion free-energy profiles; and computational electrophysiology. All three approaches correctly predict the 5-HT3R crystal structure to represent a functionally closed (i.e., non-conductive) state. We also illustrate the application of water equilibrium density simulations to annotate different conformational states of a glycine receptor.

Single-molecule FRET reveals the pre-initiation and initiation conformations of influenza virus promoter RNA.

Nucleic Acids Research 44 (2016) 10304-10315

NC Robb, AJW Te Velthuis, R Wieneke, R Tampé, T Cordes, E Fodor, AN Kapanidis

Influenza viruses have a segmented viral RNA (vRNA) genome, which is replicated by the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RNAP). Replication initiates on the vRNA 3' terminus, producing a complementary RNA (cRNA) intermediate, which serves as a template for the synthesis of new vRNA. RNAP structures show the 3' terminus of the vRNA template in a pre-initiation state, bound on the surface of the RNAP rather than in the active site; no information is available on 3' cRNA binding. Here, we have used single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (smFRET) to probe the viral RNA conformations that occur during RNAP binding and initial replication. We show that even in the absence of nucleotides, the RNAP-bound 3' termini of both vRNA and cRNA exist in two conformations, corresponding to the pre-initiation state and an initiation conformation in which the 3' terminus of the viral RNA is in the RNAP active site. Nucleotide addition stabilises the 3' vRNA in the active site and results in unwinding of the duplexed region of the promoter. Our data provide insights into the dynamic motions of RNA that occur during initial influenza replication and has implications for our understanding of the replication mechanisms of similar pathogenic viruses.

RNA Polymerase Pausing during Initial Transcription.

Molecular cell 63 (2016) 939-950

D Duchi, DLV 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.

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.