Interactions of drugs and toxins with permeant ions in potassium, sodium, and calcium channels.
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Ion channels in cell membranes are targets for a multitude of ligands including naturally occurring toxins, illicit drugs, and medications used to manage pain and treat cardiovascular, neurological, autoimmune, and other health disorders. In the past decade, the x-ray crystallography revealed 3D structures of several ion channels in their open, closed, and inactivated states, shedding light on mechanisms of channel gating, ion permeation and selectivity. However, atomistic mechanisms of the channel modulation by ligands are poorly understood. Increasing evidence suggest that cationophilic groups in ion channels and in some ligands may simultaneously coordinate permeant cations, which form indispensible (but underappreciated) components of respective receptors. This review describes ternary ligand-metal-channel complexes predicted by means of computer-based molecular modeling. The models rationalize a large body of experimental data including paradoxes in structure-activity relationships, effects of mutations on the ligand action, sensitivity of the ligand action to the nature of current-carrying cations, and action of ligands that bind in the ion-permeation pathway but increase rather than decrease the current. Recent mutational and ligand-binding experiments designed to test the models have confirmed the ternary-complex concept providing new knowledge on physiological roles of metal ions and atomistic mechanisms of action of ion channel ligands.
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