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Calmodulin Gates Aquaporin 0 Permeability through a Positively Charged Cytoplasmic Loop.


Aquaporin 0 (AQP0), the major intrinsic protein of the eye lens, plays a vital role in maintaining lens clarity by facilitating the transport of water across lens fiber cell membranes. AQP0 reduces its osmotic water permeability constant (Pf) in response to increases in the external calcium concentration, an effect that is mediated by an interaction with the calcium-binding messenger protein, calmodulin (CaM), and phosphorylation of the CaM-binding site abolishes calcium sensitivity. Despite recent structural characterization of the AQP0-CaM complex, the mechanism by which CaM modulates AQP0 remains poorly understood. By combining atomistic molecular dynamics simulations and oocyte permeability assays, we conclude that serine phosphorylation of AQP0 does not inhibit CaM binding to the whole AQP0 protein. Instead, AQP0 phosphorylation alters calcium sensitivity by modifying the AQP0-CaM interaction interface, particularly at an arginine-rich loop that connects the fourth and fifth transmembrane helices. This previously unexplored loop, which sits outside of the canonical CaM-binding site on the AQP0 cytosolic face, mechanically couples CaM to the pore-gating residues of the second constriction site. We show that this allosteric loop is vital for CaM regulation of the channels, facilitating cooperativity between adjacent subunits and regulating factors such as serine phosphorylation. Similar allosteric interactions may also mediate CaM modulation of the properties of other CaM-regulated proteins.

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