Electrostatic radius of the gramicidin channel determined from voltage dependence of H+ ion conductance

D. G. Levitt, E. R. Decker

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The results of Decker and Levitt (1987) suggest that the conductance of H+ ion through the gramicidin channel is limited primarily by diffusion in the bulk solution at the channel mouth. It is assumed in this paper that the H+ conductance is 100% diffusion limited. This means that all the factors that influence the H+ flux are external to the channel and are presumed to be known. In particular, the diffusion coefficient of H+ in this region is assumed to be equal to the bulk solution value and the only force acting on the ion is that due to the applied voltage. A model of the H+ flux is derived, based on the Nernst-Planck equation. It has three adjustable parameters: the electrostatic radius, the capture distance, and the radius of the H+ ion. The acceptable range of the parameters was determined by comparing the predictions of the model with the experimental measurements of the H+ conductance at pH 3.75. The best fit was obtained for an electrostatic radius in the range 2.3–2.7 A. This is in good agreement with earlier predictions (2.5 A) based on the assumption that the dielectric constant of the channel water is equal to that of bulk water. The addition of 1 M choline Cl- (an impermeant) increases the H+ current at low voltage and decreases it at high voltage. The increase can be explained by the small surface charge that results from the separation of charge produced by exclusion of the large choline cation (relative to Cl-) from the membrane surface. The decrease at high voltages can be accounted for by the change in the profile of the applied potential produced by the increase in ionic strength.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1988

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grant 5RO1 GM25938. Received for publication 13 January 1987 and in final form 28 August 1987.


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