A sulfur-aromatic gate latch is essential for opening of the orai1 channel pore

Priscilla S.W. Yeung, Christopher E. Ing, Megumi Yamashita, Régis Pomès, Murali Prakriya*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Sulfur-aromatic interactions occur in the majority of protein structures, yet little is known about their functional roles in ion channels. Here, we describe a novel molecular motif, the M101 gate latch, which is essential for gating of human Orai1 channels via its sulfur-aromatic interactions with the F99 hydrophobic gate. Molecular dynamics simulations of different Orai variants reveal that the gate latch is engaged in open but not in closed channels. In experimental studies, we use metal ion bridges to show that promoting an M101-F99 bond directly activates Orai1, whereas disrupting this interaction triggers channel closure. Mutational analysis demonstrates that methionine at this position has a unique length, flexibility, and chemistry to act as an effective latch for the phenylalanine gate. Because sulfur-aromatic interactions provide additional stabilization compared to purely hydrophobic interactions, we postulate that the six M101-F99 pairs in the hexameric channel represent a substantial energetic contribution to Orai1 activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • CRAC channels
  • Ion channel gating
  • Orai1
  • STIM1
  • Store-operated calcium entry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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