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Researchers identify proteins making up mechanosensitive ion channels
Date:6/2/2008

clamp method to measure the movement of ions across the membrane of Arabidopsis root cells as the pressure inside the cell increased. These experiments demonstrated that increasing cellular pressure also increased the ion flow across the membrane. Likewise, as the pressure inside the cell went down, the ion flow decreased.

To determine whether MSL9 and MSL10 were responsible for this ion flow, Haswell created a mutant line of Arabidopsis without either type of protein. When the root cells of the plants lacking MSL9 and MSL10 were tested, the researchers saw very little change in ion flow across the membrane as the pressure inside the cell increased. In other words, without these two proteins, very little channel activity was seen. And the little channel activity they did measure was shown to be caused by different proteins.

Two to tango

Having shown that MSL9 and MSL10 were responsible for the ion channel activity, Haswell and colleagues set out to determine if both were required for the response or if only one did most of the work. Therefore, they tested plants that lacked only one of each protein and were surprised to discover that cells with only MSL9 showed one type of activity and cells with only MSL10 showed a different type of activity. And, importantly, cells with both proteins showed a third type, suggesting that both MSL9 and MSL10 are required to produce the mechanosensitive channel activity seen in wild-type Arabidopsis root.

Haswell and colleagues propose that the channel is composed of subunits of both proteins MSL9 and MSL10 and that this combined structure results in the unique mechanosensitive ion channel behavior observed in the wild-type plants and not in any of the mutant lines.

Despite identifying proteins that govern this ion channel response in Arabidopsis root, mysteries remain. To determine how the mutant plants might be defective and reveal the purpose of the channels, Haswell's group
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Contact: Elizabeth Haswell
ehaswell@wustl.edu
314-935-9223
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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