Characterizing fenestration size in sodium channel subtypes and their accessibility to inhibitors

Elaine Tao, Ben Corry*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav) underlie the electrical activity of nerve and muscle cells. Humans have nine different subtypes of these channels, which are the target of small-molecule inhibitors commonly used to treat a range of conditions. Structural studies have identified four lateral fenestrations within the Nav pore module that have been shown to influence Nav pore blocker access during resting-state inhibition. However, the structural differences among the nine subtypes are still unclear. In particular, the dimensions of the four individual fenestrations across the Nav subtypes and their differential accessibility to pore blockers is yet to be characterized. To address this, we applied classical molecular dynamics simulations to study the recently published structures of Nav1.1, Nav1.2, Nav1.4, Nav1.5, and Nav1.7. Although there is significant variability in the bottleneck sizes of the Nav fenestrations, the subtypes follow a common pattern, with wider DI-II and DIII-IV fenestrations, a more restricted DII-III fenestration, and the most restricted DI-IV fenestration. We further identify the key bottleneck residues in each fenestration and show that the motions of aromatic residue sidechains govern the bottleneck radii. Well-tempered metadynamics simulations of Nav1.4 and Nav1.5 in the presence of the pore blocker lidocaine also support the DI-II fenestration being the most likely access route for drugs. Our computational results provide a foundation for future in vitro experiments examining the route of drug access to sodium channels. Understanding the fenestrations and their accessibility to drugs is critical for future analyses of diseases mutations across different sodium channel subtypes, with the potential to inform pharmacological development of resting-state inhibitors and subtype-selective drug design.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)193-206
    Number of pages14
    JournalBiophysical Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2022


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