Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New operating principle of potassium channels discovered

28.01.2014
Neurons transmit information with the help of special channels that allow the passage of potassium ions. Defective potassium channels play a role in epilepsy and depression.

The scientists working with Prof. Henning Stahlberg at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have now identified the complete 3D structure of a particular potassium channel, a HCN channel.


3D model of several HCN potassium channels arranged side by side.
University of Basel

This enabled them to draw conclusions about its mechanism of action, which they describe in the current issue of “Nature Communications”.

Neurons conduct information by way of electrical impulses through our body. Potassium channels are a key component of this electrical circuit and are controlled either by an electrical impulse or through signaling molecules. In man, the dysfunction of the so-called HCN potassium channels is associated with neurological disorders such as epilepsy and depression. Prof. Henning Stahlberg’s team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has now elucidated the full structure of a bacterial counterpart of this type of potassium channel, which has provided new insights into its functioning.

New operating principle thanks to the 3D structure
Potassium channels are embedded in the membrane of cells. They form a pore with a filter that selectively allows the passage of potassium ions, and which is controlled by the signaling molecule cAMP. It was previously assumed that the pore could open and close, thus regulating the flow of potassium ions. Stahlberg’s team has now, however, found indications for another mode of action. Employing crystallization technology and electron microscopy, the scientists have reconstructed the intact three dimensional structure of the bacterial channel in its natural environment in both the presence and absence of cAMP.

Based on the analysis of these structures, they discovered, contrary to popular belief, that the pore always remains open. “When the signaling molecule cAMP docks onto the potassium channel, it causes a rearrangement and shift in the protein scaffold,” explains Julia Kowal, first author of this study. “We think that cAMP in fact widens the filter somewhat, thereby controlling the flow of potassium ions.” The newly uncovered structural details have made it possible for the researchers to consider the mode of functioning of these channels from a new perspective.

Mechanism relevant for new drugs
Stahlberg would like to investigate the filter region more closely with an extremely high resolution camera, in order to resolve the last remaining questions about this mechanism. These signal-driven potassium channels are also referred to as “pacemaker channels”. They help to generate the rhythm of the heart as well as the rhythmic excitability of neurons. The precise understanding of the mode of action is thus the basis for developing specific drugs for the treatment of epilepsy and cardiac arrhythmias.
Original Citation
Julia Kowal, Mohamed Chami, Paul Baumgartner, Marcel Arheit, Po-Lin Chiu, Martina Rangl, Simon Scheuring, Gunnar F. Schröder, Crina M. Nimigean, and Henning Stahlberg
Ligand-induced structural changes in the cyclic nucleotide-modulated potassium channel MloK1.
Nature Communications, Published Online 28 January 2014
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4106
Further Information
Prof. Henning Stahlberg, Biozentrum, University of Basel at the Department for Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE), Tel.: +41 61 387 32 62, E-mail: henning.stahlberg@unibas.ch

Katrin Bühler | Universität Basel
Further information:
http://www.unibas.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein
24.01.2017 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

nachricht Choreographing the microRNA-target dance
24.01.2017 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>