Sensing and responding to membrane tension: The bacterial MscL channel as a model system

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

43 Scopus citations

Abstract

Mechanosensors are important for many life functions, including the senses of touch, balance, and proprioception; cardiovascular regulation; kidney function; and osmoregulation. Many channels from an assortment of families are now candidates for eukaryotic mechanosensors and proprioception, as well as cardiovascular regulation, kidney function, and osmoregulation. Bacteria also possess two families of mechanosensitive channels, termed MscL and MscS, that function as osmotic emergency release valves. Of the two channels, MscL is the most conserved, most streamlined in structure, and largest in conductance at 3.6 nS with a pore diameter in excess of 30 Å; hence, the structural changes required for gating are exaggerated and perhaps more easily defined. Because of these properties, as well as its tractable nature, MscL represents a excellent model for studying how a channel can sense and respond to biophysical changes of a lipid bilayer. Many of the properties of the MscL channel, such as the sensitivity to amphipaths, a helix that runs along the membrane surface and is connected to the pore via a glycine, a twisting and turning of the transmembrane domains upon gating, and the dynamic changes in membrane interactions, may be common to other candidate mechanosensors. Here we review many of these properties and discuss their structural and functional implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-174
Number of pages6
JournalBiophysical Journal
Volume103
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 18 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics

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