Uncoupling of voltage- and ligand-induced activation in HCN2 channels by glycine inserts v2


Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-modulated (HCN) channels are tetramers that generate electrical rhythmicity in special brain neurons and cardiomyocytes. The channels are activated by membrane hyperpolarization. The binding of cAMP to the four available cyclic nucleotide-binding domains (CNBD) enhances channel activation. We analyzed in the present study the mechanism of how the effect of cAMP binding is transmitted to the pore domain (PD). Our strategy was to uncouple the C-linker (CL) from the channel core by inserting one to five glycine residues between the S6 gate and the A’-helix (constructs 1G to 5G). We quantified in full-length HCN2 channels the resulting functional effects of the inserted glycines by current activation as well as the structural dynamics and statics using molecular dynamics simulations and Constraint Network Analysis (CNA). We show functionally that already in 1G the cAMP effect on activation is lost and that with the exception of 3G and 5G the concentration-activation relationships are shifted to depolarized voltages with respect to HCN2. The strongest effect was found for 4G. Accordingly, the activation kinetics were accelerated by all constructs, again with the strongest effect in 4G. The simulations reveal that the average residue mobility of the CL and CNBD domains is increased in all constructs and that the junction between the S6 and A’-helix is turned into a flexible hinge, resulting in a destabilized gate in all constructs. Moreover, for 3G and 4G, there is a stronger downward displacement of the CL-CNBD than in HCN2 and the other constructs, resulting in an increased kink angle between S6 and A’-helix, which in turn loosens contacts between the S4-helix and the CL. This is suggested to promote a downward movement of the S4-helix, similar to the effect of hyperpolarization. In addition, exclusively in 4G, the selectivity filter in the upper pore region and parts of the S4-helix are destabilized. The results provide new insights into the intricate activation of HCN2 channels.



HCN2 channels, autoinhibition, confocal patch-clamp fluorometry, patch-clamp technique, molecular modeling, molecular dynamics simulations