Asymmetric gramicidin channels: Heterodimeric channels with a single F6Val1 residue
Substitution of Val1 by 4,4,4,4',4',4'-F6Val in [Val1]gramicidin A ([Val1]gA) produces channels in which the effects of amino acid replacements on dimer stability and ion permeation are nonadditive. If only one Val1 (in a symmetric [Val1]gA channel) is substituted by F6Val, the resulting heterodimeric channels are destabilized relative to both homodimeric parent channels and the single-channel conductance of the heterodimeric channels is reduced relative to the parent channels (Russell, E. W. B., L. B. Weiss, F. I. Navetta, R. E. Koeppe II, and O. S. Andersen. 1986. Single-channel studies on linear gramicidins with altered amino acid side chains. Effects of altering the polarity of the side chain at position #1 in gramicidin A. Biophys. J. 49:673; Durkin, J. T., R. E. Koeppe II, and O. S. Andersen. 1990. Energetics of gramicidin hybrid channel formation as a test for structural equivalence. Side-chain substitutions in the native sequence. J. Mol. Biol. 211:221-234). To understand the basis for this destabilization, we have examined further the characteristics of [F6Val1]/[Xxx1]gA heterodimers, where Xxx = Gly, Val, and Ala. These heterodimeric channels show rapid current transitions between (at least) two current levels and display asymmetric i-V characteristics. The orientation of the heterodimers relative to the applied potential was determined by asymmetric addition of the gramicidin analogs, one to each side of a preformed bilayer. The current transitions are most clearly illustrated for [F6Val1]/[Gly1]gA heterodimers, which possess two finite and well defined current levels. Based on the existence of these two conductance states and the analysis of duration and interval distributions, we conclude that the transitions between the two current levels correspond to conformational transitions in "stable" heterodimers. In the case of [F6Val1]/[Val1]gA and [F6Val1]/[Ala1]gA heterodimers, the low-conductance state is indistinguishable from zero. The two (or more) conductance states presumably correspond to different orientations of the dipolar F6Val1 side chain. The distribution between the high- and the low-conductance states varies as a function of potential in [F6Val1]/[Gly1]gA channels. These characteristics cause the [F6Val1]/nonpolar (Val, Ala, Gly)gA hybrid channels to serve as a "simple" model for understanding gating transitions in membrane-spanning channels.