Voltage-gated Na+-channels are transmembrane proteins that are responsible for the fast depolarizing phase of the action potential in nerve and muscular cells. Selective permeability of Na+ over Ca2+ or K+ ions is essential for the biological function of Na+-channels. After the emergence of the first high-resolution structure of a Na+-channel, an anionic coordination site was proposed to confer Na+ selectivity through partial dehydration of Na+ via its direct interaction with conserved glutamate side chains. By combining molecular dynamics simulations and free-energy calculations, a low-energy permeation pathway for Na+ ion translocation through the selectivity filter of the recently determined crystal structure of a prokaryotic sodium channel from Arcobacter butzleri is characterised. The picture that emerges is that of a pore preferentially occupied by two ions, which can switch between different configurations by crossing low free-energy barriers. In contrast to K+-channels, the movements of the ions appear to be weakly coupled in Na+-channels. When the free-energy maps for Na+ and K+ ions are compared, a selective site is characterised in the narrowest region of the filter, where a hydrated Na+ ion, and not a hydrated K+ ion, is energetically stable.
- KCSA POTASSIUM CHANNEL, FREE-ENERGY CALCULATIONS, K+ CHANNEL, MOLECULAR-DYNAMICS, CRYSTAL-STRUCTURE, ION SELECTIVITY, BINDING-SITES, MECHANISM, SIMULATIONS, PERMEATION