Thermodynamics of mechanosensitivity

V. S. Markin, F. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Mechanosensitivity of ion channels is conventionally interpreted as being driven by a change of their in-plane cross-sectional area Amsc. This, however, does not include any factors relating to membrane stiffness, thickness, spontaneous curvature or changes in channel shape, length or stiffness. Because the open probability of a channel is sensitive to all these factors, we constructed a general thermodynamic formalism. These equations provide the basis for the analysis of the behaviour of mechanosensitive channels in lipids of different geometric and chemical properties such as the hydrophobic mismatch at the boundary between the protein and lipid or the effects of changes in the bilayer intrinsic curvature caused by the adsorption of amphipaths. This model predicts that the midpoint γ1/2 and the slope1/2 of the gating curve are generally not independent. Using this relationship, we have predicted the line tension at the channel/lipid border of MscL as ∼10 pN, and found it to be much less than the line tension of aqueous pores in pure lipid membranes. The MscL channel appears quite well matched to its lipid environment. Using gramicidin as a model system, we have explained its observed conversion from stretch-activated to stretch-inactivated gating as a function of bilayer thickness and composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number007
Pages (from-to)110-124
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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