Despite major advances in the structure determination of ion channels, the sequence of molecular rearrangements at negative membrane potentials in voltage-gated potassium channels of the Shaker family remains unknown. Four major composite gating states are documented during the gating process: closed (C), open (O), open-inactivated (OI), and closed-inactivated (CI). Although many steps in the gating cycle have been clarified experimentally, the development of steady-state inactivation at negative membrane potentials and mandatory gating transitions for recovery from inactivation have not been elucidated. In this study, we exploit the biophysical properties of Shaker-IR mutants T449A/V474C and T449A/V476C to evaluate the status of the activation and inactivation gates during steady-state inactivation and upon locking the channel open with intracellular Cd2+. We conclude that at negative membrane potentials, the gating scheme of Shaker channels can be refined in two aspects. First, the most likely pathway for the development of steady-state inactivation is C→O→OI⇌CI. Second, the OI→CI transition is a prerequisite for recovery from inactivation. These findings are in accordance with the widely accepted view that tight coupling is present between the activation and C-type inactivation gates in Shaker and underscore the role of steady-state inactivation and recovery from inactivation as determinants of excitability.
ASJC Scopus subject areas