We show that the activity of an ion channel is correlated with the phase state of the lipid bilayer hosting the channel. By measuring unitary conductance, dwell times, and open probability of the K(+) channel KcsA as a function of temperature in lipid bilayers composed of POPE and POPG in different relative proportions, we obtain that all those properties show a trend inversion when the bilayer is in the transition region between the liquid-disordered and the solid-ordered phase. These data suggest that the physical properties of the lipid bilayer influence ion channel activity likely via a fine-tuning of its conformations. In a more general interpretative framework, we suggest that other parameters such as pH, ionic strength, and the action of amphiphilic drugs can affect the physical behavior of the lipid bilayer in a fashion similar to temperature changes resulting in functional changes of transmembrane proteins.
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