Free energy and kinetics of cAMP permeation through connexin26 hemichannel with and without voltage
The connexin family is a diverse group of highly regulated non-beta-barrel wide-pore channels permeable to biological signaling molecules. Despite their critical roles in mediating selective molecular signaling in health and disease, the molecular basis of permeation through these pores remains unclear. Here, we report the thermodynamics and kinetics of binding and transport of a second messenger, adenosine-3',5'-cyclophosphate (cAMP), through a connexin26 hemichannel. Inward and outward fluxes
... and outward fluxes of cAMP were first obtained from 4 μs simulations with voltages and multiple cAMPs in solution. The results are compared with the intrinsic potential of mean force (PMF) and the mean first passage times (MFPTs) of a single cAMP in the absence of voltage, obtained from a total of 16.5 μs of multi-replica Voronoi-tessellated Markovian milestoning simulations. The computed transit times through the pore correspond well to existing experimental data. Both voltage simulations and milestoning simulations revealed two cAMP binding sites with binding constants and dissociation rates computed from PMF and MFPTs. The protein dipole inside the pore produces an asymmetric PMF, reflected in unequal cAMP MFPTs in each direction once within the pore. The free energy profiles under voltages derived from intrinsic PMF provided a unified understanding of directional transition rates with/without voltage, and revealed the unique role of channel polarity and the mobile electrolyte within a wide pore on the total free energy. In addition, we show how these factors influence the cAMP dipole vector during permeation, and how cAMP affects the local and non-local pore diameter in a position-dependent manner.