Research ArticleBIOPHYSICS

The conduction pathway of potassium channels is water free under physiological conditions

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Science Advances  31 Jul 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 7, eaaw6756
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw6756


Ion conduction through potassium channels is a fundamental process of life. On the basis of crystallographic data, it was originally proposed that potassium ions and water molecules are transported through the selectivity filter in an alternating arrangement, suggesting a “water-mediated” knock-on mechanism. Later on, this view was challenged by results from molecular dynamics simulations that revealed a “direct” knock-on mechanism where ions are in direct contact. Using solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance techniques tailored to characterize the interaction between water molecules and the ion channel, we show here that the selectivity filter of a potassium channel is free of water under physiological conditions. Our results are fully consistent with the direct knock-on mechanism of ion conduction but contradict the previously proposed water-mediated knock-on mechanism.

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