Intersubunit interaction between amino- and carboxyl-terminal cysteine residues in tetrameric shaker K+ channels

Biochemistry. 1996 Sep 17;35(37):12133-40. doi: 10.1021/bi961083s.


Shaker potassium (K+) channels normally lack intrasubunit and intersubunit disulfide bonds. However, disulfide bonds are formed between Shaker subunits in intact cells exposed to oxidizing conditions. Upon electrophoresis under nonreducing conditions, intersubunit disulfide bond formation was detected by the presence of four high molecular weight adducts of Shaker protein. This result suggests that intracellular cysteine residues are in sufficiently close proximity in the native structure of the Shaker channel to form intersubunit disulfide bonds. To test this hypothesis, wild-type and mutant Shaker proteins were exposed to oxidizing conditions in intact cells. Intersubunit disulfide bond formation was eliminated upon serine substitution of either C96 in the amino terminal or C505 in the carboxyl terminal of the protein. In contrast, disulfide bond formation was not eliminated upon serine substitution of both C301 and C308 in the cytoplasmic loop between transmembrane segments S2 and S3. Exposure of Shaker-expressing cells to oxidizing conditions did not significantly alter the amplitude, kinetics, or voltage dependence of the Shaker current, demonstrating that the native tertiary and quaternary structures of the channel were maintained under oxidizing conditions. These results indicate that intersubunit disulfide bonds form between C96 and C505, providing evidence that the amino- and carboxyl-terminal regions of adjacent subunits are in proximity in the native structure of the channel. The disulfide-bonded adducts were found to represent a dimer, a trimer, and two forms of tetramer, one linear and one circular, containing one, two, three, or four disulfide bonds, respectively. These results provide a direct biochemical demonstration that Shaker K+ channels contain four pore-forming subunits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Catalase / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cysteine*
  • Disulfides
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Models, Structural
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Point Mutation
  • Potassium Channels / biosynthesis
  • Potassium Channels / chemistry*
  • Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary* / drug effects
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Shaker Superfamily of Potassium Channels
  • Transfection
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Disulfides
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Potassium Channels
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Shaker Superfamily of Potassium Channels
  • Catalase
  • Cysteine