In research published in the current issue of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Laboratory theorists William Bruno and John Pearson, and postdoctoral researcher Jin Yang describe their work using independent open-to-closed transitions to simplify the models of ion channel gating kinetics that are used to represent undetectable changes between different open and closed states.
Ion channels gating functions are critical to biological function. In humans, for example, nerves and muscles could not function without ion channels and you would not be able to think or move. Faulty ion channels in humans have been shown to cause severe diseases like cystic fibrosis and diabetes and more subtle, but still dangerous physiological effects, like over-responses to general anesthetics. According to Bruno, "we found a new way of simplifying the models that reflects the fact that one's knowledge is incomplete about what transitions can happen between states of a channel. For example, in the case of one open state, (O), and two closed (C) states, it is impossible to tell whether transitions connect the O to both C's (C-O-C), or to only one (C-C-O). We have found a set of simple models that can fit any data uniquely, so that data can always distinguish models in our set (it contains C-C-O but not C-O-C). This should allow molecular biologists to come up with better, simpler models for what is happening in ion channels, even when the complete picture remains hi
Contact: Todd Hanson
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory