Molecule of the Month: Voltage-gated Sodium Channels
Voltage-gated sodium channels transmit signals in a wave through the nervous system.
Exploring the Structure
Voltage-gated Sodium Channel
Researchers have recently captured open and closed snapshots of voltage gating, using a simpler bacterial form of the sodium channel. These channels are composed of four identical subunits that together form a structure similar to the one-chain version in our cells. The structures show that the voltage-sensing element moves as the voltage drops, tugging on a segment that connects to the central pore (PDB entries 5vb8, 6p6w). To explore this motion in more detail, click on the image for an interactive JSmol.
Topics for Further Discussion
- Structures of many other toxins, from spiders, scorpions, and other poisonous creatures, are available in the archive, including several structures of these toxins bound to voltage-gated sodium channels.
- Structures of voltage-gated channels for other types of ions are also available in the archive—how are they different and similar to the sodium channels?
March 2020, David Goodselldoi:10.2210/rcsb_pdb/mom_2020_3