Unmasking coupling between channel gating and ion permeation in the muscle nicotinic receptor

John R. Strikwerda, Steven M. Sine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whether ion channel gating is independent of ion permeation has been an enduring, unresolved question. Here, applying single channel recording to the archetypal muscle nicotinic receptor, we unmask coupling between channel gating and ion permeation by structural perturbation of a conserved intramembrane salt bridge. A charge-neutralizing mutation suppresses channel gating, reduces unitary current amplitude, and increases fluctuations of the open channel current. Power spectra of the current fluctuations exhibit low-and high-frequency Lorentzian components, which increase in charge-neutralized mutant receptors. After aligning channel openings and closings at the time of transition, the average unitary current exhibits asymmetric relaxations just after channel opening and before channel closing. A theory in which structural motions contribute jointly to channel gating and ion conduction describes both the power spectrum and the current relaxations. Coupling manifests as a transient increase in the open channel current upon channel opening and a decrease upon channel closing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere66225
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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