Movement of the S4 segment in the hERG potassium channel during membrane depolarization

Elliott D. J. S. , YAKTUBAY DÖNDAŞ N. , Munsey T. S. , Sivaprasadarao A.

MOLECULAR MEMBRANE BIOLOGY, vol.26, no.8, pp.435-447, 2009 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 26 Issue: 8
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Doi Number: 10.3109/09687680903321081
  • Page Numbers: pp.435-447


The hERG potassium channel is a member of the voltage gated potassium (Kv) channel family, comprising a pore domain and four voltage sensing domains (VSDs). Like in other Kv channels, the VSD senses changes in membrane voltage and transmits the signal to gates located in the pore domain; the gates open at positive potentials (activation) and close at negative potentials, thereby controlling the ion flux. hERG, however, differs from other Kv channels in that it is activated slowly but inactivated rapidly - a property that is crucial for the role it plays in the repolarization of the cardiac action potential. Voltage-gating requires movement of gating charges across the membrane electric field, which is accomplished by the transmembrane movement of the fourth transmembrane segment, S4, of the VSD containing die positively charged arginine or lysine residues. Here we ask if the functional differences between hERG and other Kv channels could arise from differences in the transmembrane movement of S4. To address this, we have introduced single cysteine residues into the S4 region of the VSD, expressed the mutant channels in Xenopus oocytes and examined the effect of membrane impermeable parachloromercuribenzene sulphonate on function by the two-electrode voltage clamp technique. Our results show that depolarization results in the accessibility of seven consecutive S4 residues, including the first two charged residues, K525 and R528, to extracellularly applied reagent. These data indicate that the extent of S4 movement in hERG is similar to other Kv channels, including the archabacterial KvAP and the Shaker channel of Drosophila.