Ion entry into gramicidin A channels
Membrane Transport Proteins
We have measured the fluctuations in the current through gramicidin A (GA) channels in symmetrical solutions of monovalent cations of various concentrations, and compared the spectral density values with those computed using E. Frehland's theory for noise in discrete transport systems (Frehland, E. 1978. Biophys. Chem. 8:255-265). The noise for the transport of NH4+ and Na+ ions in glycerol-monooleate/squalene membranes could be accounted for entirely by "shot noise" in the process of transport through a single-filing pore with two ion binding sites. However, in confirmation of results in a previous paper (Sigworth, F. J., D. W. Urry, and K. U. Prasad. 1987. Biophys. J. 52:1055-1064) currents of Cs+ showed a substantial excess noise at low ion concentrations, as did currents of K+ and Rb+. The excess noise was increased in thicker membranes. The observations are accounted for by a theory that postulates fluctuations of the entry rates of ions into the channel on a time scale of approximately 1 microsecond. These fluctuations occur preferentially when the channel is empty; the presence of bound ions stabilizes the "high conductance" conformation of the channel. The fluctuations are sensed to different degrees by the various ion species, and their kinetics depend on membrane thickness.