Voltage-dependent potassium (Kv) channels allow for the selective permeability of potassium ions in a membrane potential dependent manner, playing crucial roles in neurotransmission and muscle contraction. Kv channel is a tetramer, in which each subunit possesses a voltage-sensing domain (VSD) and a pore domain (PD). Although several lines of evidence indicated that membrane depolarization is sensed as the movement of helix S4 of the VSD, the detailed voltage-sensing mechanism remained elusive, due to the difficulty of structural analyses at resting potential. In this study, we conducted a comprehensive disulfide locking analysis of the VSD using 36 double Cys mutants, in order to identify the proximal residue pairs of the VSD in the presence or absence of a membrane potential. An intramolecular SS-bond was formed between 6 Cys pairs under both polarized and depolarized environment, and one pair only under depolarized environment. The multiple conformations captured by the SS-bond can be divided by two states, up and down, where S4 lies on the extracellular and intracellular sides of the membrane, respectively, with axial rotation of 180°. The transition between these two states is caused by the S4 translocation of 12 Å, enabling allosteric regulation of the gating at the PD.
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