Krammer, Eva-Maria; Giang Thi Vu; Homble, Fabrice; Prevost, Martine
Dual Mechanism of Ion Permeation through VDAC Revealed with Inorganic Phosphate Ions and Phosphate Metabolites
PLOS ONE, 10 Art. No. e0121746, APR 10 2015

In the exchange of metabolites and ions between the mitochondrion and the cytosol, the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) is a key element, as it forms the major transport pathway for these compounds through the mitochondrial outer membrane. Numerous experimental studies have promoted the idea that VDAC acts as a regulator of essential mitochondrial functions. In this study, using a combination of molecular dynamics simulations, free-energy calculations, and electrophysiological measurements, we investigated the transport of ions through VDAC, with a focus on phosphate ions and metabolites. We showed that selectivity of VDAC towards small anions including monovalent phosphates arises from short-lived interactions with positively charged residues scattered throughout the pore. In dramatic contrast, permeation of divalent phosphate ions and phosphate metabolites (AMP and ATP) involves binding sites along a specific translocation pathway. This permeation mechanism offers an explanation for the decrease in VDAC conductance measured in the presence of ATP or AMP at physiological salt concentration. The binding sites occur at similar locations for the divalent phosphate ions, AMP and ATP, and contain identical basic residues. ATP features a marked affinity for a central region of the pore lined by two lysines and one arginine of the N-terminal helix. This cluster of residues together with a few other basic amino acids forms a "charged brush" which facilitates the passage of the anionic metabolites through the pore. All of this reveals that VDAC controls the transport of the inorganic phosphates and phosphate metabolites studied here through two different mechanisms.


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