Back to Volume
Paper: The Earliest Ion Channels
Volume: 420, Bioastronomy 2007: Molecules, Microbes and Extraterrestrial Life
Page: 197
Authors: Pohorille, A.; Wilson, M. A.; Wei, C.
Abstract: Supplying protocells with ions required assistance from channels spanning their membrane walls. The earliest channels were most likely short proteins that formed transmembrane helical bundles surrounding a water-filled pore. These simple aggregates were capable of transporting ions with efficiencies comparable to those of complex, contemporary ion channels. Channels with wide pores exhibited little ion selectivity but also imposed only modest constraints on amino acid sequences of channel-forming proteins. Channels with small pores could have been selective but also might have required a more precisely defined sequence of amino acids. In contrast to modern channels, their protocellular ancestors had only limited capabilities to regulate ion flux. It is postulated that subsequent evolution of ion channels progressed primarily to acquire precise regulation, and not high efficiency or selectivity. It is further proposed that channels and the surrounding membranes co-evolved.
Back to Volume