Atomistic mechanism of coupling between cytosolic sensor domain and selectivity filter in TREK K2P channels

Nat Commun. 2024 May 31;15(1):4628. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-48823-y.


The two-pore domain potassium (K2P) channels TREK-1 and TREK-2 link neuronal excitability to a variety of stimuli including mechanical force, lipids, temperature and phosphorylation. This regulation involves the C-terminus as a polymodal stimulus sensor and the selectivity filter (SF) as channel gate. Using crystallographic up- and down-state structures of TREK-2 as a template for full atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we reveal that the SF in down-state undergoes inactivation via conformational changes, while the up-state structure maintains a stable and conductive SF. This suggests an atomistic mechanism for the low channel activity previously assigned to the down state, but not evident from the crystal structure. Furthermore, experimentally by using (de-)phosphorylation mimics and chemically attaching lipid tethers to the proximal C-terminus (pCt), we confirm the hypothesis that moving the pCt towards the membrane induces the up-state. Based on MD simulations, we propose two gating pathways by which movement of the pCt controls the stability (i.e., conductivity) of the filter gate. Together, these findings provide atomistic insights into the SF gating mechanism and the physiological regulation of TREK channels by phosphorylation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain* / chemistry
  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain* / genetics
  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain* / metabolism
  • Protein Domains


  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain
  • potassium channel protein TREK-1
  • KCNK10 protein, human