Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Physiology and Biophysics

First Advisor

Dr. I. Scott Ramsey

Second Advisor

Dr. John Hackett

Third Advisor

Dr. Lei Zhou

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Bill Barton

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Phil Mosier


The structure of the voltage-gated proton (H+) channel Hv1 is homologous to the voltage sensor domain (VSD) of tetrameric voltage-gated Na+, K+ and Ca2+ channels (VGCs), but lacks a pore domain and instead forms a homodimer. Similar to other VSD proteins, Hv1 is gated by changes in membrane potential (V), but unlike VGCs, voltage-dependent gating in Hv1 is modulated by changes in the transmembrane pH gradient (DpH = pHo - pHi). In Hv1, pHo or pHi changes shift the open probability (POPEN)-V relation by ~40 mV per pH unit. To better understand the structural basis of pHo-dependent gating in Hv1, we constructed new resting- and activated-state Hv1 VSD homology models using physical constraints determined from experimental data measured under voltage clamp and conducted all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Analyses of salt bridges and calculated pKas at conserved side chains suggests the existence of intracellular and extracellular electrostatic networks (ICEN and ECEN, respectively) that stabilize resting- or activated-state conformations of the Hv1 VSD. Structural analyses led to a novel hypothesis: two ECEN residues (E119 and D185) with coupled pKas coordinately interact with two S4 ‘gating charge’ Arg residues to modulate activated-state pHo sensitivity. Experimental data confirm that pH-dependent gating is compromised at acidic pHo in Hv1 E119A-D185A mutants, indicating that specific ECEN residue interactions are critical components of the ∆pH-dependent gating mechanism. E119 and D185 are known to participate in extracellular Zn2+ coordination, suggesting that H+ and Zn2+ utilize similar mechanisms to allosterically modulate the activated/resting state equilibrium in Hv1.


© Ashley L. Bennett

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