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In silico and in vitro studies have made progress in understanding protein-protein complex formation; however, the molecular mechanisms for their dissociation are unclear. Protein-protein complexes, lasting from microseconds to years, often involve induced-fit, challenging computational or kinetic analysis. Charybdotoxin (CTX), a peptide from the Leiurus scorpion venom, blocks voltage-gated K+-channels in a unique example of binding/unbinding simplicity. CTX plugs the external mouth of K+-channels pore, stopping K+-ion conduction, without inducing conformational changes. Conflicting with a tight binding, we show that external permeant ions enhance CTX-dissociation, implying a path connecting the pore, in the toxin-bound channel, with the external solution. This sensitivity is explained if CTX wobbles between several bound conformations, producing transient events that restore the electrical and ionic trans-pore gradients. Wobbling may originate from a network of contacts in the interaction interface that are in dynamic stochastic equilibria. These partially-bound intermediates could lead to distinct, and potentially manipulable, dissociation pathways. © 2019, Moldenhauer et al.


Hans Moldenhauer, Ignacio Díaz-Franulic, Horacio Poblete, David Naranjo. Trans-toxin ion-sensitivity of charybdotoxin-blocked potassium-channels reveals unbinding transitional states. eLife. 2019 Jul 04;8

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PMID: 31271355

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