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Papers of the Week

Papers: 7 Oct 2023 - 13 Oct 2023

2023 Oct 10

J Phys Chem B


Modulation of Mechanosensitive Potassium Channels by a Membrane-targeted Nongenetic Photoswitch.


Moschetta M, Vurro V, Sesti V, Bertarelli C, Paternò GM, Lanzani G


Mechanosensitive ion channels are present in the plasma membranes of all cells. They play a fundamental role in converting mechanical stimuli into biochemical signals and are involved in several physiological processes such as touch sensation, hearing, and blood pressure regulation. This protein family includes TWIK-related arachidonic acid-stimulated K channel (TRAAK), which is specifically implicated in the maintenance of the resting membrane potential and in the regulation of a variety of important neurobiological functions. Dysregulation of these channels has been linked to various diseases, including blindness, epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmia, and chronic pain. For these reasons, mechanosensitive channels are targets for the treatment of several diseases. Here, we propose a new approach to investigate TRAAK ion channel modulation that is based on nongenetic photostimulation. We employed an amphiphilic azobenzene, named Ziapin2. In the dark, Ziapin2 preferentially dwells in the plasma membrane, causing a thinning of the membrane. Upon light irradiation, an isomerization occurs, breaking the dimers and inducing membrane relaxation. To study the effect of Ziapin2 on the mechanosensitive channels, we expressed human TRAAK (hTRAAK) channels in HEK293T cells. We observed that Ziapin2 insertion in the membrane is able per se to recruit hTRAAK, permitting the exit of K ions outside the cells with a consequent hyperpolarization of the cell membrane. During light stimulation, membrane relaxation induces hTRAAK closure, generating a consistent and compensatory depolarization. These results add information to the Ziapin2 mechanism and suggest that membrane deformation can be a tool for the nonselective modulation of mechanosensitive channels.