The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 171-188

First online:

Formation of ion channels by a negatively charged analog of gramicidin a

  • H. -J. ApellAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Konstanz
  • , E. BambergAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Konstanz
  • , H. AlpesAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Konstanz
  • , P. LäugerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Konstanz

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O-pyromellitylgramicidin is a derivative of gramicidin in which three carboxyl groups are introduced at the terminal hydroxyl end of the peptide. Experiments with artificial lipid membranes indicate that this negatively charged analog forms ion-permeable channels in a way similar to that of gramicidin. If O-pyromellitylgramicidin is added to only one aqueous solution, the membrane conductance remains small, but increases by several orders of magnitude if the same amount is also added to the other side. In accordance with the dimer model of the channel, the membrane conductance under symmetrical conditions is proportional to the square of the aqueous concentration of O-pyromellitylgramicidin over a wide range. The ratioΜ PG/Μ G of the single-channel conductance of O-pyromellitylgramicidin to that of gramicidin is close to unity at high ionic strength, but increases more than fivefold at smaller ionic strength (0.01m). This observation is explained in terms of an electrostatic effect of the fixed negative charges localized near the mouth of the channel. In a mixture of O-pyromellitylgramicidin and gramicidin, unit conductance steps of intermediate size are observed in addition to the conductance steps corresponding to the pure compounds, indicating the formation of hybrid channels. Hybrid channels with preferred orientation may be formed if small amounts of gramicidin and O-pyromellitylgramicidin are added to opposite sides of the membrane. These hybrid channels show a distinct asymmetry in the current-voltage characteristic.