In the simplest model of channel mechanosensitivity, expanded states are favored by stretch. We showed previously that stretch accelerates voltage-dependent activation and slow inactivation in a Kv channel, but whether these transitions involve expansions is unknown. Thus, while voltage-gated channels are mechanosensitive, it is not clear whether the simplest model applies. For Kv pore opening steps, however, there is excellent evidence for concerted expansion motions. To ask how these motions respond to stretch, therefore, we have used a Kv1 mutant, Shaker ILT, in which the step immediately prior to opening is rate limiting for voltage-dependent current.
Macroscopic currents were measured in oocyte patches before, during, and after stretch. Invariably, and directly counter to prediction for expansion-derived free energy, ILT current activation (which is limited by the concerted step prior to pore opening) slowed with stretch and the g(V) curve reversibly right shifted. In WTIR (wild type, inactivation removed), the g(V) (which reflects independent voltage sensor motions) is left shifted. Stretch-induced slowing of ILT activation was fully accounted for by a decreased basic forward rate, with no change of gating charge. We suggest that for the highly cooperative motions of ILT activation, stretch-induced disordering of the lipid channel interface may yield an entropy increase that dominates over any stretch facilitation of expanded states. Since tail current τ(V) reports on the opposite (closing) motions, ILT and WTIR τ(V)tail were determined, but the stretch responses were too complex to shed much light.
Shaw is the Kv3 whose voltage sensor, introduced into Shaker, forms the chimera that ILT mimics. Since Shaw2 F335A activation was reportedly a first-order concerted transition, we thought its activation might, like ILT's, slow with stretch. However, Shaw2 F335A activation proved to be sigmoid shaped, so its rate-limiting transition was not a concerted pore-opening transition. Moreover, stretch, via an unidentified non–rate-limiting transition, augmented steady-state current in Shaw2 F335A.
Since putative area expansion and compaction during ILT pore opening and closing were not the energetically consequential determinants of stretch modulation, models incorporating fine details of bilayer structural forces will probably be needed to explain how, for Kv channels, bilayer stretch slows some transitions while accelerating others.