Protein of the Week: mechanosensitive channels
Mechanosensitive channels (PDB codes 2OAR AND 2OAU, structure generated with PyMOL)function as pressure relief in bacteria. Rather than allowing the bacterium to explode when the osmotic pressure gets too high, these channels open to release some of the contents of the cell.
In the images above and below we see two different sides of one such channel composed of five interacting subunits. The structure suggests a spring-loaded screw mechanism that can open and close on demand.
This space filling model verifies that this is the closed conformation of the channel.
Here we see another example of a mechanosensitive channel.
In this last image, each subunit has been individually colored.