Modulation of gramicidin channel structure and function by the aliphatic 'spacer' residues 10, 12, and 14 between the tryptophans
In the linear gramicidins, the four aromatic residues at positions 9, 11, 13, and 15 are well-known to be important for the structure and function of membrane-spanning gramicidin channels. To investigate whether the "spacer" residues between the tryptophans in gramicidin A (gA) are important for channel structure and function, D-Leu-10, -12. and -14 of gA were replaced by Ala, Val, or Ile. (For practical reasons, the Ile substitutions were introduced into the enantiomeric gramicidin A-, gA-.) Circular dichroism spectra of [D-Ala10,12,14]gA, [D-Val10,12,14]gA, or [Ile10,12,14]gA- incorporated into sodium dodecyl sulfate micelles or 1, 2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine vesicles differ from the spectrum of the native [D-Leu10,12,14]gA. All the analogue spectra display reduced ellipticity at both 218 and 235 nm, indicating the presence of double-stranded conformers with the Ala analogue spectra showing the largest departure from the native gA spectra. Size-exclusion chromatograms of the Val and Ile analogues show both monomer and dimer peaks, accompanied by peak broadening; the chromatograms for the Ala analogue show broad, overlapping peaks and suggest the presence of higher oligomers and/or (rapidly) interconverting conformations. All three analogues form membrane-spanning channels, with the channel-forming potency of the Ala analogue being much less than that of gA or the other analogues. In 1.0 M CsCl, the conductance of each analogue channel is approximately 25% less than that of [D-Leu10,12,14]gA channels. The lifetimes of the analogue channels also are less than of [D-Leu10,12, 14]gA channels, with the largest (8-fold) reduction being for [D-Ala10,12,14]gA channels. Hybrid channel experiments show that the beta6.3-helical backbone folding pattern is retained in the channel-forming subunits and that the substitutions primarily influence ion entry. Both the bulk and the stereochemistry of the aliphatic residues between the tryptophans of gA are important for channel structure and function.