Piezo1 is an ion channel that gates open when mechanical force is applied to a cell membrane, thus allowing cells to detect and respond to mechanical stimulation. Molecular structures of Piezo1 reveal a large ion channel with an unusually curved shape. This study analyzes how such a curved ion channel interacts energetically with the cell membrane. Through membrane mechanical calculations, we show that Piezo1 deforms the membrane shape outside the perimeter of the channel into a curved 'membrane footprint'. This membrane footprint amplifies the sensitivity of Piezo1 to changes in membrane tension, rendering it exquisitely responsive. We assert that the shape of the Piezo channel is an elegant example of molecular form evolved to optimize a specific function, in this case tension sensitivity. Furthermore, the predicted influence of the membrane footprint on Piezo gating is consistent with the demonstrated importance of membrane-cytoskeletal attachments to Piezo gating.
- Christoph A Haselwandter
- Roderick MacKinnon
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Baron Chanda, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
© 2018, Haselwandter & MacKinnon
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