Mickey Mouse Protein

A detailed structure of a potassium ion channel protein has been obtained revealed by a Nobel team in the US. The structure shows the channel in a relatively natural state and reveals how lipid molecules within the cell membrane influence channel function. They do so through their interaction with the voltage-sensing Mickey Mouse ears that protrude into the lipid layer. Membrane-bound proteins are among the most fascinating molecules in biology but are notoriously difficult to crystallize and study in detail in their natural, or even near-natural state. Now, Roderick MacKinnon and colleagues at HHMI have developed a new technique, lipid-detergent-mediated crystallization, which could open the door to studying the hundreds of membrane proteins previously inaccessible in their natural environment to crystallography.