A novel mechanism for human K2P2.1 channel gating. Facilitation of C-type gating by protonation of extracellular histidine residues

J Biol Chem. 2008 Jul 11;283(28):19448-55. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M801273200. Epub 2008 May 12.


The mammalian K2P2.1 potassium channel (TREK-1, KCNK2) is highly expressed in excitable tissues, where it plays a key role in the cellular mechanisms of neuroprotection, anesthesia, pain perception, and depression. Here, we report that external acidification, within the physiological range, strongly inhibits the human K2P2.1 channel by inducing "C-type" closure. We have identified two histidine residues (i.e. His-87 and His-141), located in the first external loop of the channel, that govern the response of the channel to external pH. We demonstrate that these residues are within physical proximity to glutamate 84, homologous to Shaker Glu-418, KcsA Glu-51, and KCNK0 Glu-28 residues, all previously argued to stabilize the outer pore gate in the open conformation by forming hydrogen bonds with pore-adjacent residues. We thus propose a novel mechanism for pH sensing in which protonation of His-141 and His-87 generates a local positive charge that serves to draw Glu-84 away from its natural interactions, facilitating the collapse of the selectivity filter region. In accordance with this proposed mechanism, low pH modified K2P2.1 selectivity toward potassium. Moreover, the proton-mediated effect was inhibited by external potassium ions and was enhanced by a mutation (S164Y) known to accelerate C-type gating. Furthermore, proton-induced current inhibition was more pronounced at negative potentials. Thus, voltage-dependent C-type gating acceleration by protons represents a novel mechanism for K2P2.1 outward rectification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depression / genetics
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Histidine / chemistry
  • Histidine / genetics
  • Histidine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ion Channel Gating*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Pain / genetics
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain / chemistry
  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain / genetics
  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary / genetics
  • Protons*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain
  • Protons
  • potassium channel protein TREK-1
  • Histidine