This paper describes a new approach to evaluate the inner structure (including a main constriction and its localization) of the water lumen of an ion channel. The method is based on the determination of channel filling by different nonelectrolyte molecules through each side of an ion channel. The method has two characteristic features that make its use attractive: (i) the possibility to ascertain the existence, localization and size of a narrow part inside an ion channel water lumen and (ii) the chances to determine the maximal size of both entrances of an ion channel and to obtain additional information about the geometry of its water lumen at the same time. Determinations were made on colicin Ia ion channels inserted into planar lipid bilayers. This channel was chosen because there is an apparent contradiction between its low single channel conductance and the large diameter of its water lumen. Our results show that the water lumen of the colicin Ia channel has a funnel-like structure with a small trans-entrance, with a diameter of about 1.0 nm, and a large cis-entrance, with a diameter of approximately 1.8 nm. A constriction with a diameter of approximately 0.7 nm is shown to be located close to the trans-entrance of the channel. The method can also be applied to patch clamp studies of single ion channels.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 1, 1998
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