Facilitated translocation of polypeptides through a protein pore is a ubiquitous and fundamental process in biology. Several translocation systems possess various well-defined binding sites within the pore lumen, but a clear mechanistic understanding of how the interaction of the polypeptides with the binding site alters the underlying kinetics is still missing. Here, we employed rational protein design and single-channel electrical recordings to obtain detailed kinetic signatures of polypeptide translocation through the staphylococcal α-hemolysin (αHL) transmembrane pore, a robust, tractable, and versatile β-barrel protein. Acidic binding sites composed of rings of negatively charged aspartic acid residues, engineered at strategic positions within the β barrel, produced dramatic changes in the functional properties of the αHL protein, facilitating the transport of cationic polypeptides from one side of the membrane to the other. When two electrostatic binding sites were introduced, at the entry and exit of the β barrel, both the rate constants of association and dissociation increased substantially, diminishing the free energy barrier for translocation. By contrast, more hydrophobic polypeptides exhibited a considerable decrease in the rate constant of association to the pore lumen, having to overcome a greater energetic barrier because of the hydrophilic nature of the pore interior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry