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Keywords:

  • channelopathies;
  • ion channels;
  • membrane proteins;
  • protein structures;
  • synthetic strategies

Abstract

Membranes form natural barriers that need to be permeable to diverse matter like ions and substrates. This permeability is controlled by ion-channel proteins, which have attracted great interest for pharmaceutical applications. Ion-channel engineering (ICE) modifies biological ion channels by chemical/biological synthetis means. The goal is to obtain ion channels with modified or novel functionality. Three functional strategies exist. The first is the manipulation of the wider pores with robust β-barrel structures, such as those of α-hemolysin and porins. The second engineering approach focuses on the modification of narrow (mostly α-helical) pores to understand selectivity and modes of action. A third functional approach addresses channel gating by (photo)triggering the biological receptor that controls the channel. Several synthetis strategies have been developed and successfully utilized for the synthetic modification of biological ion-channels: the S-alkylation of specifically introduced Cys, protein semisynthesis by native chemical ligation, protein semisynthesis by protein trans-splicing, as well as nonsense-suppression methods. Structural studies (X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy) are necessary to support the functional studies and to afford predictable engineering. The reprogramming and re-engineering of channels can be used for sensing applications, treatment of channelopathies, chemical neurobiology, and providing novel lead compounds for targeting ion channels.