Published on Sat Sep 18 2021

In Silico Electrophysiology of Inner-Ear Mechanotransduction Channel TMC1 Models

Walujkar, S., Lotthammer, J. M., Nisler, C. R., Sudar, J. C., Ballesteros, A., Sotomayor, M.

Inner-ear sensory hair cells convert mechanical stimuli from sound and head movements into electrical signals during mechanotransduction. There is strong evidence that TMC1 and TMC2 are pore-forming subunits of the complex.

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Abstract

Inner-ear sensory hair cells convert mechanical stimuli from sound and head movements into electrical signals during mechanotransduction. Identification of all molecular components of the inner-ear mechanotransduction apparatus is ongoing; however, there is strong evidence that TMC1 and TMC2 are pore-forming subunits of the complex. We present molecular dynamics simulations that probe ion conduction of TMC1 models built based on two different structures of related TMEM16 proteins. Unlike most channels, the TMC1 models do not show a central pore. Instead, simulations of these models in a membrane environment at various voltages reveal a peripheral permeation pathway that is exposed to lipids and that shows cation permeation at rates comparable to those measured in hair cells. Furthermore, our analyses suggest that TMC1 gating mechanisms involve protein conformational changes and tension-induced lipid-mediated pore widening. These results provide insights into ion conduction and activation mechanisms of hair-cell mechanotransduction channels essential for hearing and balance.