Original Article


, Volume 219, Issue 6, pp 1057-1070

First online:

Mechanism of luminal Ca2+ and Mg2+ action on the vacuolar slowly activating channels

  • Igor I. PottosinAffiliated withCentro Universitario de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Universidad de Colima Email author 
  • , Manuel Martínez-EstévezAffiliated withCentro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán
  • , Oxana R. DobrovinskayaAffiliated withCentro Universitario de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Universidad de Colima
  • , Jesús MuñizAffiliated withCentro Universitario de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Universidad de Colima
  • , Gerald SchönknechtAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, Oklahoma State University

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The non-selective slow vacuolar (SV) channel can dominate tonoplast conductance, making it necessary to tightly control its activity. Applying the patch-clamp technique to vacuoles from sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) taproots we studied the effect of divalent cations on the vacuolar side of the SV channel. Our results show that the SV channel has two independent binding sites for vacuolar divalent cations, (i) a less selective one, inside the channel pore, binding to which impedes channel conductance, and (ii) a Ca2+-selective one outside the membrane-spanning part of the channel protein, binding to which stabilizes the channel’s closed conformations. Vacuolar Ca2+ and Mg2+ almost indiscriminately blocked ion fluxes through the open channel pore, decreasing measured single-channel current amplitudes. This low-affinity block displays marked voltage dependence, characteristic of a ‘permeable blocker’. Vacuolar Ca2+—with a much higher affinity than Mg2+—slows down SV channel activation and shifts the voltage dependence to more (cytosol) positive potentials. A quantitative analysis results in a model that exactly describes the Ca2+-specific effects on the SV channel activation kinetics and voltage gating. According to this model, multiple (approximately three) divalent cations bind with a high affinity at the luminal interface of the membrane to the channel protein, favoring the occupancy of one of the SV channel’s closed states (C2). Transition to another closed state (C1) diminishes the effective number of bound cations, probably due to mutual repulsion, and channel opening is accompanied by a decrease of binding affinity. Hence, the open state (O) is destabilized with respect to the two closed states, C1 and C2, in the presence of Ca2+ at the vacuolar side. The specificity for Ca2+ compared to Mg2+ is explained in terms of different binding affinities for these cations. In this study we demonstrate that vacuolar Ca2+ is a crucial regulator to restrict SV channel activity to a physiologically meaningful range, which is less than 0.1% of maximum SV channel activity.


Beta Calcium Modulation of voltage gating Slow vacuolar channel Vacuole