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Rethinking Ion Transport by Ionophores: Experimental and Computational Investigation of Single Water Hydration in Valinomycin‑K+ Complexes

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posted on 11.02.2021, 14:04 by Eiko Sato, Keisuke Hirata, James M. Lisy, Shun-ichi Ishiuchi, Masaaki Fujii
Valinomycin is a macrocyclic ionophore that transports K+ across hydrophobic membranes. Its function depends on selectivity, capture, transport, and release of the ion. While thermodynamics clearly indicate that valinomycin binds K+ preferentially over all other alkali ions, characterizing the capture/transport/release of K+ by valinomycin at the molecular level remains a challenge. The bracelet-like structure of valinomycin-K+ (K+VM) has the ion completely enveloped, facilitating transport through the cell membrane. We report that hydration by a single water molecule, (K+VM)­(H2O), produces three different conformers, identified by infrared spectroscopy and supporting computational studies. For two minor conformers, the water prevents the ionophore from closing, a conformation that would inhibit diffusion through the membrane. However, the dominant conformer encloses both the ion and the water, replicating the bracelet-like K+VM and arguably enhancing diffusion through the membrane. This potential for active participation of water in transport through the hydrophobic cellular membrane has never been previously considered.

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