A molecular framework for temperature-dependent gating of ion channels

Cell. 2014 Aug 28;158(5):1148-1158. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.07.026. Epub 2014 Aug 21.


Perception of heat or cold in higher organisms is mediated by specialized ion channels whose gating is exquisitely sensitive to temperature. The physicochemical underpinnings of this temperature-sensitive gating have proven difficult to parse. Here, we took a bottom-up protein design approach and rationally engineered ion channels to activate in response to thermal stimuli. By varying amino acid polarities at sites undergoing state-dependent changes in solvation, we were able to systematically confer temperature sensitivity to a canonical voltage-gated ion channel. Our results imply that the specific heat capacity change during channel gating is a major determinant of thermosensitive gating. We also show that reduction of gating charges amplifies temperature sensitivity of designer channels, which accounts for low-voltage sensitivity in all known temperature-gated ion channels. These emerging principles suggest a plausible molecular mechanism for temperature-dependent gating that reconcile how ion channels with an overall conserved transmembrane architecture may exhibit a wide range of temperature-sensing phenotypes. :

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Ion Channels / chemistry*
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Engineering*
  • Rats
  • Temperature
  • Thermodynamics


  • Ion Channels