One of the goals of mechanosensitive channel (MSC) studies is to understand the underlying molecular and biophysical mechanisms of the mechano-gating process from force sensing to gate opening. We focus on the latter process and investigate the role of water in the bacterial MSC MscL, which is activated by membrane tension. We analyze the interplay between water and the gate-constituting amino acids, Leu19–Gly26, through molecular dynamics simulations. To highlight the role of water, specifically hydration of the gate, in MscL gating, we restrain lateral movements of the water molecules along the water–vapor interfaces at the top and bottom of the vapor bubble, plugging the closed gate. The gating behaviors in this model and the normal MscL model, in which water movements are unrestrained, are compared. In the normal model, increased membrane tension breaks the hydrogen bond between Leu19 and Val 23 of the inner helix, exposing the backbone carbonyl oxygen of Leu19 to the water-accessible lumen side of the gate. Associated with this activity, water comes to access the vapor region and stably interacts with the carbonyl oxygen to induce a dewetting to wetting transition that facilitates gate expansion toward channel opening. By contrast, in the water-restrained model, carbonyl oxygen is also exposed, but no further conformational changes occur at the gate. This suggests that gate opening relies on a conformational change initiated by wetting. The penetrated water weakens the hydrophobic interaction between neighboring transmembrane inner helices called the “hydrophobic lock” by wedging into the space between their interacting portions.
Sawada, Y., & Sokabe, M. (2015). Molecular dynamics study on protein–water interplay in the mechanogating of the bacterial mechanosensitive channel MscL. European Biophysics Journal, 44(7), 531–543. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00249-015-1065-2