Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

The Journal of Chemical Physics


Water is at the heart of almost all biological phenomena, without which no life that we know of would have been possible. It is a misleadingly complex liquid that exists in near coexistence with the vapor phase under ambient conditions. Confinement within a hydrophobic cavity can tip this balance enough to drive a cooperative dewetting transition. For a nanometer-scale pore, the dewetting transition leads to a stable dry state that is physically open but impermeable to ions. This phenomenon is often referred to as hydrophobic gating. Numerous transmembrane protein ion channels have now been observed to utilize hydrophobic gating in their activation and regulation. Here, we review recent theoretical, simulation, and experimental studies that together have started to establish the principles of hydrophobic gating and discuss how channels of various sizes, topologies, and biological functions can utilize these principles to control the thermodynamic properties of water within their interior pores for gating and regulation. Exciting opportunities remain in multiple areas, particularly on direct experimental detection of hydrophobic dewetting in biological channels and on understanding how the cell may control the hydrophobic gating in regulation of ion channels.





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