International team decodes patterns of ion channel activity using novel stochastic approach
Scientists from the universities of Melbourne and Göttingen have gained new insights into the complex stochastic patterns of opening and closing observed in ion channels. The key is the molecular architecture of the protein that ion channels are made of.
Proteins can rearrange their three-dimensional structure only in certain ways. By analysing a large set of time series data, the researchers were able to link the activity levels of an ion channel to the configurations of the channel protein. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
Ion channels are tiny components of human cells that play important roles in all physiological processes occurring in the body. They form pores that allow electrically charged particles (ions) such as sodium, chloride and potassium to pass the cell membrane.
Through ion channels, nerve cells are charged like batteries, which allows them to communicate with other cells, for example, in the brain. The heartbeat is also initiated once per second by such an electrical signal. Defects or missing of certain ion channels can lead to diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
Via transforming their structure, ion channels open or close pores in the cell membrane. However, this opening and closing can be quite irregular.
“Quite often, an ion channel doesn’t seem to do anything for a long time. But then it suddenly shows its maximum level of activity before it switches off again”, explains Dr. Ivo Siekmann from Göttingen University’s Felix Bernstein Institute for Mathematical Statistics. “And in between there can be further intermediate activity levels.”
The key is the complex three-dimensional protein structure that forms the ion channel. “An ion channel can’t deform arbitrarily”, says Dr. Siekmann. “Similar to yoga, there are certain positions that work for an ion channel.” The activity levels of the ion channels correspond to different yoga poses. By combining several novel statistical and mathematical approaches, the scientists revealed how an ion channel transitions between these different yoga poses.
The study has several practical implications: Whereas designing pharmaceuticals that target ion channels has the potential to develop highly specific drugs, the results of the article indicate that only the average activity level, but not the actual opening and closing of the ion channel can be influenced.
“Switching between different activity levels provides a simpler explanation for some physiological processes”, says Dr. Siekmann. “Instead of the complicated and hectic opening and closing, they depend on the relaxed transitions between different yoga poses.”
Dr. Ivo Siekmann is a postdoc at the Felix Bernstein Institute for Mathematical Statistics (FBMS) in the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Göttingen. He works in Prof. Dr. Axel Munk’s group, which develops statistical models and methods for the analysis of ion channels.
This research is funded through the DFG Collaborative Research Centre “Functionality controlled by organization in and between membranes“ and a Max Planck Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen.
Original publication: Ivo Siekmann et al. Modelling modal gating of ion channels with hierarchical Markov models. Proceedings of the Royal Society A 2016. Doi: 10.1098/rspa.2016.0122.
Dr. Ivo Siekmann
University of Göttingen
Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science
Institute for Mathematical Stochastics
Goldschmidtstraße 7, 37077 Göttingen
Phone +49 551 39-172127
Thomas Richter | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology