Luo, Yun; Rossi, Angelo R.; Harris, Andrew L.
Computational Studies of Molecular Permeation through Connexin26 Channels
BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 110:584-599, FEB 2 2016

signal property of connexin channels is the ability to mediate selective diffusive movement of molecules through plasma membrane(s), but the energetics and determinants of molecular movement through these channels have yet to be understood. Different connexin channels have distinct molecular selectivities that cannot be explained simply on the basis of size or charge of the permeants. To gain insight into the forces and interactions that underlie selective molecular permeation, we investigated the energetics of two uncharged derivatized sugars, one permeable and one impermeable, through a validated connexin26 (Cx26) channel structural model, using molecular dynamics and associated analytic tools. The system is a Cx26 channel equilibrated in explicit membrane/solvent, shown by Brownian dynamics to reproduce key conductance characteristics of the native channel. The results are consistent with the known difference in permeability to each molecule. The energetic barriers extend through most of the pore length, rather than being highly localized as in ion-specific channels. There is little evidence for binding within the pore. Force decomposition reveals how, for each tested molecule, interactions with water and the Cx26 protein vary over the length of the pore and reveals a significant contribution from hydrogen bonding and interaction with K+. The flexibility of the pore width varies along its length, and the tested molecules have differential effects on pore width as they pass through. Potential sites of interaction within the pore are defined for each molecule. The results suggest that for the tested molecules, differences in hydrogen bonding and entropic factors arising from permeant flexibility substantially contribute to, the energetics of permeation. This work highlights factors involved in selective molecular permeation that differ from those that define selectivity among atomic ions.


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