Author(s): Poms R, Roux B
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Abstract The conduction of protons in the hydrogen-bonded chain of water molecules (or "proton wire") embedded in the lumen of gramicidin A is studied with molecular dynamics free energy simulations. The process may be described as a "hop-and-turn" or Grotthuss mechanism involving the chemical exchange (hop) of hydrogen nuclei between hydrogen-bonded water molecules arranged in single file in the lumen of the pore, and the subsequent reorganization (turn) of the hydrogen-bonded network. Accordingly, the conduction cycle is modeled by two complementary steps corresponding respectively to the translocation 1) of an ionic defect (H+) and 2) of a bonding defect along the hydrogen-bonded chain of water molecules in the pore interior. The molecular mechanism and the potential of mean force are analyzed for each of these two translocation steps. It is found that the mobility of protons in gramicidin A is essentially determined by the fine structure and the dynamic fluctuations of the hydrogen-bonded network. The translocation of H+ is mediated by spontaneous (thermal) fluctuations in the relative positions of oxygen atoms in the wire. In this diffusive mechanism, a shallow free-energy well slightly favors the presence of the excess proton near the middle of the channel. In the absence of H+, the water chain adopts either one of two polarized configurations, each of which corresponds to an oriented donor-acceptor hydrogen-bond pattern along the channel axis. Interconversion between these two conformations is an activated process that occurs through the sequential and directional reorientation of water molecules of the wire. The effect of hydrogen-bonding interactions between channel and water on proton translocation is analyzed from a comparison to the results obtained previously in a study of model nonpolar channels, in which such interactions were missing. Hydrogen-bond donation from water to the backbone carbonyl oxygen atoms lining the pore interior has a dual effect: it provides a coordination of water molecules well suited both to proton hydration and to high proton mobility, and it facilitates the slower reorientation or turn step of the Grotthuss mechanism by stabilizing intermediate configurations of the hydrogen-bonded network in which water molecules are in the process of flipping between their two preferred, polarized states. This mechanism offers a detailed molecular model for the rapid transport of protons in channels, in energy-transducing membrane proteins, and in enzymes.
This article was published in Biophys J
and referenced in Bioenergetics: Open Access