Role of Dimers in the cAMP-Dependent Activation of Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic-Nucleotide-Modulated (HCN) Ion Channels
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Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic-nucleotide-modulated (HCN) ion channels control rhythmicity in neurons and cardiomyocytes. Cyclic AMP (cAMP) modulates HCN activity through the cAMP-induced formation of a tetrameric gating ring spanning the intracellular region (IR) of HCN. Although evidence from confocal patch-clamp fluorometry indicates that the cAMP-dependent gating of HCN occurs through a dimer of dimers, the structural and dynamical basis of cAMP allostery in HCN dimers has so far remained elusive. Thus, here we examine how dimers influence IR structural dynamics, and the role that such structural dynamics play in HCN allostery. To this end, we performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of HCN4 IR dimers in their fully apo, fully holo, and partially cAMP-bound states, resulting in a total simulated time of 1.2 μs. Comparative analyses of these MD trajectories, as well as previous monomer and tetramer simulations utilized as benchmarks for comparison, reveal that dimers markedly sensitize the HCN IR to cAMP-modulated allostery. Our results indicate that dimerization fine-tunes the IR dynamics to enhance, relative to both monomers and tetramers, the allosteric intra- and interprotomer coupling between the cAMP-binding domain and tetramerization domain components of the IR. The resulting allosteric model provides a viable rationalization of electrophysiological data on the role of IR dimers in HCN activation.
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