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Enhancement of Proton Transfer in Ion Channels by Membrane Phosphate Headgroups

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journal contribution
posted on 14.05.2009, 00:00 by Debra L. Wyatt, Carlos Marcelo G. de Godoy, Samuel Cukierman
The transfer of protons (H+) in gramicidin (gA) channels is markedly distinct in monoglyceride and phospholipid membranes. In this study, the molecular groups that account for those differences were investigated using a new methodology. The rates of H+ transfer were measured in single gA channels reconstituted in membranes made of plain ceramides or sphingomyelins and compared to those in monoglyceride and phospholipid bilayers. Single-channel conductances to protons (gH) were significantly larger in sphingomyelin than in ceramide membranes. A novel and unsuspected finding was that H+ transfer was heavily attenuated or completely blocked in ceramide (but not in sphingomyelin) membranes in low-ionic-strength solutions. It is reasoned that H-bond dynamics at low ionic strengths between membrane ceramides and gA makes channels dysfunctional. The rate of H+ transfer in gA channels in ceramide membranes is significantly higher than that in monoglyceride bilayers. This suggests that solvation of the hydrophobic surface of gA channels by two acyl chains in ceramides stabilizes the gA channels and the water wire inside the pore, leading to an enhancement of H+ transfer in relation to that occurring in monoglyceride membranes. gH values in gA channels are similar in ceramide and monoglyceride bilayers and in sphingomyelin and phospholipid membranes. It is concluded that phospho headgroups in membranes have significant effects on the rate of H+ transfer at the membrane gA channel/solution interfaces, enhancing the entry and exit rates of protons in channels.