Distance measurements reveal a common topology of prokaryotic voltage-gated ion channels in the lipid bilayer

Jessica Richardson, Rikard Blunck, Pinghua Ge, Paul R. Selvin, Francisco Bezanilla, Diane M. Papazian, Ana M. Correa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Voltage-dependent ion channels are fundamental to the physiology of excitable cells because they underlie the generation and propagation of the action potential and excitation-contraction coupling. To understand how ion channels work, it is important to determine their structures in different conformations in a membrane environment. The validity of the crystal structure for the prokaryotic K+ channel, KVAP, has been questioned based on discrepancies with biophysical data from functional eukaryotic channels, underlining the need for independent structural data under native conditions. We investigated the structural organization of two prokaryotic voltage-gated channels, NaChBac and KVAP, in liposomes by using luminescence resonance energy transfer. We describe here a transmembrane packing representation of the voltage sensor and pore domains of the prokaryotic Na channel, NaChBac. We find that NaChBac and KVAP share a common arrangement in which the structures of the Na and K selective pores and voltage-sensor domains are conserved. The packing arrangement of the voltage-sensing region as determined by luminescence resonance energy transfer differs significantly from that of the KVAP crystal structure, but resembles that of the eukaryotic KV1.2 crystal structure. However, the voltage-sensor domain in prokaryotic channels is closer to the pore domain than in the KV1.2 structure. Our results indicate that prokaryotic and eukaryotic channels that share similar functional properties have similar helix arrangements, with differences arising likely from the later introduction of additional structural elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15865-15870
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 24 2006


  • Ion pore
  • Luminescence resonance energy transfer
  • Six transmembrane channels
  • Structure
  • Voltage sensor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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