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Tethered peptide neurotoxins display two blocking mechanisms in the K+ channel pore as do their untethered analogs.


We show here that membrane-tethered toxins facilitate the biophysical study of the roles of toxin residues in K+ channel blockade to reveal two blocking mechanisms in the K+ channel pore. The structure of the sea anemone type I (SAK1) toxin HmK is determined by NMR. T-HmK residues are scanned by point mutation to map the toxin surface, and seven residues are identified to be critical to occlusion of the KcsA channel pore. T-HmK-Lys22 is shown to interact with K+ ions traversing the KcsA pore from the cytoplasm conferring voltage dependence on the toxin off rate, a classic mechanism that we observe as well with HmK in solution and for Kv1.3 channels. In contrast, two related SAK1 toxins, Hui1 and ShK, block KcsA and Kv1.3, respectively, via an arginine rather than the canonical lysine, when tethered and as free peptides.

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