MscS (mechanosensitive channel of small conductance) is ubiquitously found among bacteria and plays a major role in avoiding cell lysis upon rapid osmotic downshock. The gating of MscS is modulated by voltage, but little is known about how MscS senses membrane potential. Three arginine residues (Arg-46, Arg-54, and Arg-74) in the transmembrane (TM) domain are possible to respond to voltage judging from the MscS structure. To examine whether these residues are involved in the voltage dependence of MscS, we neutralized the charge of each residue by substituting with asparagine (R46N, R54N, and R74N). Mechanical threshold for the opening of the expressed wild-type MscS and asparagine mutants did not change with voltage in the range from -40 to +100 mV. By contrast, inactivation process of wild-type MscS was strongly affected by voltage. The wild-type MscS inactivated at +60 to +80 mV but not at -60 to +40 mV. The voltage dependence of the inactivation rate of all mutants tested, that is, R46N, R54N, R74N, and R46N/R74N MscS, was almost indistinguishable from that of the wild-type MscS. These findings indicate that the voltage dependence of the inactivation occurs independently of the positive charges of R46, R54, and R74.
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