Computational study of non-conductive selectivity filter conformations and C-type inactivation in a voltage-dependent potassium channel

J Gen Physiol. 2021 Sep 6;153(9):e202112875. doi: 10.1085/jgp.202112875. Epub 2021 Aug 6.


C-type inactivation is a time-dependent process of great physiological significance that is observed in a large class of K+ channels. Experimental and computational studies of the pH-activated KcsA channel show that the functional C-type inactivated state, for this channel, is associated with a structural constriction of the selectivity filter at the level of the central glycine residue in the signature sequence, TTV(G)YGD. The structural constriction is allosterically promoted by the wide opening of the intracellular activation gate. However, whether this is a universal mechanism for C-type inactivation has not been established with certainty because similar constricted structures have not been observed for other K+ channels. Seeking to ascertain the general plausibility of the constricted filter conformation, molecular dynamics simulations of a homology model of the pore domain of the voltage-gated potassium channel Shaker were performed. Simulations performed with an open intracellular gate spontaneously resulted in a stable constricted-like filter conformation, providing a plausible nonconductive state responsible for C-type inactivation in the Shaker channel. While there are broad similarities with the constricted structure of KcsA, the hypothetical constricted-like conformation of Shaker also displays some subtle differences. Interestingly, those are recapitulated by the Shaker-like E71V KcsA mutant, suggesting that the residue at this position along the pore helix plays a pivotal role in determining the C-type inactivation behavior. Free energy landscape calculations show that the conductive-to-constricted transition in Shaker is allosterically controlled by the degree of opening of the intracellular activation gate, as observed with the KcsA channel. The behavior of the classic inactivating W434F Shaker mutant is also characterized from a 10-μs MD simulation, revealing that the selectivity filter spontaneously adopts a nonconductive conformation that is constricted at the level of the second glycine in the signature sequence, TTVGY(G)D.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Ion Channel Gating*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Potassium Channels* / genetics
  • Potassium Channels* / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Potassium Channels
  • Potassium