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Ion currents through potassium channels are gated. Constriction of the ion conduction pathway at the inner helix bundle, the textbook gate of Kir potassium channels, has been shown to be an ineffective permeation control, creating a rift in our understanding of how these channels are gated. Here we present evidence that anionic lipids act as interactive response elements sufficient to gate potassium conduction. We demonstrate the limiting barrier to K+ permeation lies within the ion conduction pathway and show that this gate is operated by the fatty acyl tails of lipids that infiltrate the conduction pathway via fenestrations in the walls of the pore. Acyl tails occupying a surface groove extending from the cytosolic interface to the conduction pathway provide a potential means of relaying cellular signals, mediated by anionic lipid head groups bound at the canonical lipid binding site, to the internal gate.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date