Canonical K+ channels are tetrameric and highly K+-selective, whereas two-pore–domain K+ (K2P) channels form dimers, but with a similar pore architecture. A two-pore–domain potassium channel TWIK1 (KCNK1 or K2P1) allows permeation of Na+ and other monovalent ions, resulting mainly from the presence of Thr-118 in the P1 domain. However, the mechanistic basis for this reduced selectivity is unclear. Using ion-exchange–induced difference IR spectroscopy, we analyzed WT TWIK1 and T118I (highly K+-selective) and L228F (substitution in the P2 domain) TWIK1 variants and found that in the presence of K+ ions, WT and both variants exhibit an amide-I band at 1680 cm−1. This band corresponds to interactions of the backbone carbonyls in the selectivity filter with K+, a feature very similar to that of the canonical K+ channel KcsA. Computational analysis indicated that the relatively high frequency for the amide-I band is well explained by impairment of hydrogen bond formation with water molecules. Moreover, concentration-dependent spectral changes indicated that the K+ affinity of the WT selectivity filter was much lower than those of the variants. Furthermore, only the variants displayed a higher frequency shift of the 1680-cm−1 band upon changes from K+ to Rb+ or Cs+ conditions. High-speed atomic force microscopy disclosed that TWIK1's surface morphology largely does not change in K+ and Na+ solutions. Our results reveal the local conformational changes of the TWIK1 selectivity filter and suggest that the amide-I bands may be useful “molecular fingerprints” for assessing the properties of other K+ channels.
Chemistry and Pharmacology