We describe a mechanosensitive (MS) channel that has mechanosensitive channel of miniconductance (MscM) activity, and displays unique properties with respect to gating. Mechanosensitive channels respond to membrane tension, are ubiquitous from bacteria to man, and exhibit a great diversity in structure and function. These channels protect Bacteria and Archaea against hypoosmotic shock and are critical determinants of shape in chloroplasts. Given the dominant roles played in bacteria by the mechanosensitive channel of small conductance (MscS) and the mechanosensitive channel of large conductance (MscL), the role of the multiple MS channel homologs observed in most organisms remains obscure. Here we demonstrate that a MscS homolog, YbdG, extends the range of hypoosmotic shock that Escherichia coli cells can survive, but its expression level is insufficient to protect against severe shocks. Overexpression of the YbdG protein provides complete protection. Transcription and translation of the ybdG gene are enhanced by osmotic stress consistent with a role for the protein in survival of hypoosmotic shock. Measurement of the conductance of the native channel by standard patch clamp methods was not possible. However, a fully functional YbdG mutant channel, V229A, exhibits a conductance in membrane patches consistent with MscM activity. We find that MscM activities arise from more than one gene product because ybdG deletion mutants still exhibit an occasional MscMlike conductance. We propose that ybdG encodes a low- abundance MscM- type MS channel, which in cells relieves low levels of membrane tension, obviating the need to activate the major MS channels, MscS and MscL.
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- activated channels
- stationary phase
- ion channels