• Record: found
  • Abstract: found
  • Article: found
Is Open Access

Ionic selectivity in L-type calcium channels by electrostatics and hard-core repulsion

Read this article at

      There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.


      A physical model of selective “ion binding” in the L-type calcium channel is constructed, and consequences of the model are compared with experimental data. This reduced model treats only ions and the carboxylate oxygens of the EEEE locus explicitly and restricts interactions to hard-core repulsion and ion–ion and ion–dielectric electrostatic forces. The structural atoms provide a flexible environment for passing cations, thus resulting in a self-organized induced-fit model of the selectivity filter. Experimental conditions involving binary mixtures of alkali and/or alkaline earth metal ions are computed using equilibrium Monte Carlo simulations in the grand canonical ensemble. The model pore rejects alkali metal ions in the presence of biological concentrations of Ca2+ and predicts the blockade of alkali metal ion currents by micromolar Ca2+. Conductance patterns observed in varied mixtures containing Na+ and Li+, or Ba2+ and Ca2+, are predicted. Ca2+ is substantially more potent in blocking Na+ current than Ba2+. In apparent contrast to experiments using buffered Ca2+ solutions, the predicted potency of Ca2+ in blocking alkali metal ion currents depends on the species and concentration of the alkali metal ion, as is expected if these ions compete with Ca2+ for the pore. These experiments depend on the problematic estimation of Ca2+ activity in solutions buffered for Ca2+ and pH in a varying background of bulk salt. Simulations of Ca2+ distribution with the model pore bathed in solutions containing a varied amount of Li+ reveal a “barrier and well” pattern. The entry/exit barrier for Ca2+ is strongly modulated by the Li+ concentration of the bath, suggesting a physical explanation for observed kinetic phenomena. Our simulations show that the selectivity of L-type calcium channels can arise from an interplay of electrostatic and hard-core repulsion forces among ions and a few crucial channel atoms. The reduced system selects for the cation that delivers the largest charge in the smallest ion volume.

      Related collections

      Most cited references 39

      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: not found

      Molecular determinants of Ca2+ selectivity and ion permeation in L-type Ca2+ channels.

       Jie Yang,  W Sather,  R Tsien (1993)
      Voltage-gated Ca2+ channels link changes in membrane potential to the delivery of Ca2+, a key second messenger for many cellular responses. Ca2+ channels show selectivity for Ca2+ over more plentiful ions such as Na+ or K+ by virtue of their high-affinity binding of Ca2+ within the pore. It has been suggested that this binding involves four conserved glutamate residues in equivalent positions in the putative pore-lining regions of repeats I-IV in the Ca2+ channel a1 subunit. We have carried out a systematic series of single amino-acid substitutions in each of these positions and find that all four glutamates participate in high-affinity binding of Ca2+ or Cd2+. Each glutamate carboxylate makes a distinct contribution to ion binding, with the carboxylate in repeat III having the strongest effect. Some single glutamate-to-lysine mutations completely abolish micromolar Ca2+ block, indicating that the pore does not possess any high-affinity binding site that acts independently of the four glutamate residues. The prevailing model of Ca2+ permeation must thus be modified to allow binding of two Ca2+ ions in close proximity, within the sphere of influence of the four glutamates. The functional inequality of the glutamates may be advantageous in allowing simultaneous interactions with multiple Ca2+ ions moving single-file within the pore. Competition among Ca2+ ions for individual glutamates, together with repulsive ion-ion electrostatic interaction, may help achieve rapid flux rates through the channel.
        • Record: found
        • Abstract: found
        • Article: not found

        Non-selective conductance in calcium channels of frog muscle: calcium selectivity in a single-file pore.

        Voltage-clamp studies were carried out to compare currents through Ca2+ channels (ICa) with Na+ currents (Ins) through a non-selective cation conductance blocked by micromolar concentrations of external Ca2+. The gating of both currents was found to have similar time and voltage dependence. The amplitudes of ICa and Ins varied widely, but Ins was always large in fibres with large ICa, and small in fibres with small ICa. Both ICa and Ins were blocked by the specific Ca2+ channel blocker nifedipine, with half-blockage concentrations that were virtually identical (KD = 0.9 microM for ICa and 0.7 microM for Ins). ICa and Ins were also equally sensitive to block by diltiazem (KD = 80 microM). These parallels between Ins and ICa are most easily explained if Ins flows through Ca2+ channels. Apparently, Ca2+ channels bear high-affinity Ca2+-binding sites, and are highly permeable to monovalent cations when Ca2+ is absent. Ba2+ currents (IBa) and ICa were measured in external solutions containing mixtures of Ba2+ and Ca2+. IBa is blocked by Ca2+, as is Ins. Adding Ba2+ to Ca2+ produces only small or no increases in current, as if Ba2+ is only sparingly permeant when Ca2+ is present. Membrane currents in Ba2+/Ca2+ mixtures show anomalous mole-fraction behaviour, suggesting that Ca2+ channels are single-file, multi-ion pores. Complex current transients are observed under maintained depolarizations in Na+/Ca2+ and Ba2+/Ca2+ mixtures. They suggest that in ion mixtures, Ca2+ channels transport Ca2+ in preference to Na+ and Ba2+. Hence Ca2+ channels are selective for Ca2+, even though current amplitudes suggest that the Na+ or Ba2+ permeabilities in the absence of Ca2+ are as high as, or higher than, the Ca2+ permeability. We conclude that the selective permeability of Ca2+ channels depends on the presence of Ca2+. In model calculations, our observations are explained as a consequence of Ca2+ channels being single-file pores. It is proposed that Ca2+ channels derive much of their ion selectivity from high-affinity Ca2+ binding sites located in an otherwise unselective aqueous pore.
          • Record: found
          • Abstract: found
          • Article: not found

          Ca2+ channel selectivity at a single locus for high-affinity Ca2+ interactions.

          Ca2+ channels display remarkable selectivity and permeability, traditionally attributed to multiple, discrete Ca2+ binding sites lining the pore. Each of the four pore-forming segments of Ca2+ channel alpha 1 subunits contains a glutamate residue that contributes to high-affinity Ca2+ interactions. Replacement of all four P-region glutamates with glutamine or alanine abolished micromolar Ca2+ block of monovalent current without revealing any additional independent high-affinity Ca2+ binding site. Pairwise replacements of the four glutamates excluded the hypothesis that they form two independent high-affinity sites. Systematic alterations of side-chain length, charge, and polarity by glutamate replacement with aspartate, glutamine, or alanine weakened the Ca2+ interaction, with considerable asymmetry from one repeat to another. The P-region glutamate in repeat I was unusual in its sensitivity to aspartate replacement but not glutamine substitution. While all four glutamates cooperate in supporting high-affinity interactions with single Ca2+ ions, they also influence the interaction between multiple divalent cations.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Physical Chemistry, University of Pannonia, H-8201 Veszprém, Hungary
            [2 ]Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602
            [3 ]Department of Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612
            [4 ]Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33101
            Author notes
            Correspondence to Wolfgang Nonner: wnonner@
            J Gen Physiol
            J. Gen. Physiol
            The Journal of General Physiology
            The Rockefeller University Press
            May 2009
            : 133
            : 5
            : 497-509
            © 2009 Boda et al.

            This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, as described at


            Anatomy & Physiology


            Comment on this article