Ion permeation and glutamate residues linked by Poisson-Nernst-Planck theory in L-type calcium channels

Wolfgang Nonner, Bob Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


L-type Ca channels contain a cluster of four charged glutamate residues (EEEE locus), which seem essential for high Ca specificity. To understand how this highly charged structure might produce the currents and selectivity observed in this channel, a theory is needed that relates charge to current. We use an extended Poisson-Nernst-Planbk (PNP2) theory to compute (mean) Coulombic interactions and thus to examine the role of the mean field electrostatic interactions in producing current and selectivity. The pore was modeled as a central cylinder with tapered atria; the cylinder (i.e., 'pore proper') contained a uniform volume density of fixed charge equivalent to that of one to four carboxyl groups. The pore proper was assigned ion- specific, but spatially uniform, diffusion coefficients and excess chemical potentials. Thus electrostatic selection by valency was computed self- consistently, and selection by other features was also allowed. The five external parameters needed for a system of four ionic species (Na, Ca, Cl, and H) were determined analytically from published measurements of three limiting conductances and two critical ion concentrations, while treating the pore as a macroscopic ion-exchange system in equilibrium with a uniform bath solution. The extended PNP equations were solved with these parameters, and the predictions were compared to currents measured in a variety of solutions over a range of transmembrane voltages. The extended PNP theory accurate y predicted current-voltage relations, anomalous mole fraction effects in the observed current, saturation effects of varied Ca and Na concentrations, and block by protons. Pore geometry, dielectric permittivity, and the number of carboxyl groups had only weak effects. The successful prediction of Ca fluxes in this paper demonstrates that ad hoc electrostatic parameters, multiple discrete binding sites, and logistic assumptions of single-file movement are all unnecessary for the prediction of permeation in Ca channels over a wide range of conditions. Further work is needed, however, to understand the atomic origin of the fixed charge, excess chemical potentials, and diffusion coefficients of the channel. The Appendix uses PNP2 theory to predict ionic currents for published 'barrier-and-well' energy profiles of this channel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1287-1305
Number of pages19
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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