We studied the mechanism by which external acidification from pH 7.3 to 6.8 reduced current magnitude in the Kv1.5 potassium channel. At physiological external [K+], a shift in the voltage-dependence of activation was entirely responsible for the acidification-induced decrease in Kv1.5 current magnitude (pK = 7.15). Elevation of external [Ca2+] or [Mg2+] identically shifted activation curves to the right and identically shifted the pH-sensitivity of the activation curves to more acidic values. Similar observations were made with the Kv2.1 K+ channel, except that the pK for the activation shift was out of the physiological range. These data are consistent with a mechanism by which acidification shifted activation via modification of a local surface potential. Elimination of eight positive charges within the outer vestibule of the conduction pathway had no effect on the voltage-dependence of activation at pH 7.3 or higher, which suggested that sites exposed to the conduction pathway within the outer vestibule did not directly contribute to the relevant local surface potential. However, mutations at position 487 (within the conduction pathway) displaced the pK of the pH-sensitive shift in activation, such that the sensitivity of Kv1.5 current to physiologically relevant changes in pH was reduced or eliminated. These results suggest that, among voltage-gated K+ channels, activation in Kv1.5 is uniquely sensitive to physiologically relevant changes in pH because the pK for the sites that contribute to the local surface potential effect is near pH 7. Moreover, the pK for the activation shift depends not only on the nature of the sites involved but also on structural orientation conferred, in part, by at least one residue within the conduction pathway.
Trapani, J. G., & Korn, S. J. (2003). Effect of external pH on activation of the Kv1.5 potassium channel. Biophysical Journal, 84(1), 195–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(03)74842-5