Electrostatic stabilization plays a central role in autoinhibitory regulation of the Na+,K+-ATPase

05 September 2019

The Na+,K+-ATPase is present in the plasma membrane of all animal cells. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the Na+ and K+ electrochemical potential gradients across the membrane, which are essential in numerous physiological processes, e.g. nerve, muscle and kidney function. Its cellular activity must, therefore, be under tight metabolic control. Consideration of eosin fluorescence and stopped-flow kinetic data indicates that the enzyme’s E2 conformation is stabilized by electrostatic interactions, most likely between the N-terminus of the protein’s catalytic α-subunit and the adjacent membrane. The electrostatic interactions can be screened by increasing ionic strength, leading to a more evenly balanced equilibrium between the E1 and E2 conformations. This represents an ideal situation for effective regulation of the Na+,K+-ATPase’s enzymatic activity, since protein modifications which perturb this equilibrium in either direction can then easily lead to activation or inhibition. The effect of ionic strength on the E1:E2 distribution and the enzyme’s kinetics can be mathematically described by the Gouy-Chapman theory of the electrical double-layer. Weakening of the electrostatic interactions and a shift towards E1 causes a significant increase in the rate of phosphorylation of the enzyme by ATP. Electrostatic stabilization of the Na+,K+-ATPase’s E2 conformation, thus, could play an important role in regulating the enzyme’s physiological catalytic turnover.