Castillo, Juan P.; Rui, Huan; Basilio, Daniel; Das, Avisek; Roux, Benoit; Latorre, Ramon; Bezanilla, Francisco; Holmgren, Miguel
Mechanism of potassium ion uptake by the Na+/K+-ATPase

The Na+/ K+-ATPase restores sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+) electrochemical gradients dissipated by action potentials and ion-coupled transport processes. As ions are transported, they become transiently trapped between intracellular and extracellular gates. Once the external gate opens, three Na+ ions are released, followed by the binding and occlusion of two K+ ions. While the mechanisms of Na+ release have been well characterized by the study of transient Na+ currents, smaller and faster transient currents mediated by external K+ have been more difficult to study. Here we show that external K+ ions travelling to their binding sites sense only a small fraction of the electric field as they rapidly and simultaneously become occluded. Consistent with these results, molecular dynamics simulations of a pump model show a wide water-filled access channel connecting the binding site to the external solution. These results suggest a mechanism of K+ gating different from that of Na+ occlusion.


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