Water transport and ion-water interaction in the gramicidin channel

Biophys J. 1981 Aug;35(2):501-8. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(81)84805-9.


The diffuse permeability and the diffusion coefficient of water (Dw) in the gramicidin channel is determined from the osmotic water permeability of the channel and "single file" pore theory. Dw is about 7% of the self-diffusion coefficient of bulk water. The diffusion coefficient of a single water molecule alone in the channel is also determined and is about equal to the value in bulk water. This provides an estimate of the mobility of water on the channel walls in the absence of water-water interaction. Since the gramicidin channel walls should be representative of uncharged polar protein surfaces, this result provides direct evidence that the presence of a cation in the channel reduces the hydraulic water permeability by a factor ranging from 60 for Tl+ to 5 for Na+. The diffusion coefficient of a cation (Dc) in the channel is estimated and compared with Dw. For Na+ it is found that Dc approximately equal to Dw, which implies that the movement of the row of water molecules through the channel determines the local mobility of Na+. Thus, it seems that short range ion-wall interactions are not important in determining the channel conductance for Na+. In contrast, for Li+, local ion-wall interactions probably do limit the conductance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Gramicidin*
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Ions
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Biological
  • Permeability
  • Sodium
  • Thallium
  • Water*


  • Ion Channels
  • Ions
  • Water
  • Gramicidin
  • Sodium
  • Thallium