Previously, we showed that the N-terminal recognition domain (T1) of Kv1.3 was not required for assembly of functional channels [Tu et al. (1996) J. Biol. Chem. 271, 18904-18911]. Moreover, specific Kv1.3 peptide fragments including regions of the central core are able to inhibit expression of current produced from a channel lacking the T1 domain, Kv1.3(T1-). To elucidate the mechanism whereby Kv1.3 peptide fragments suppress Kv1.3(T1-) current, we have studied the ability of peptide fragments containing the transmembrane segments S1, S1-S2, or S1-S2-S3 to physically associate with the Kv1.3(T1-) polypeptide subunit in vitro in microsomal membranes. Using c-myc (9E10) epitope-labeled peptide fragments and anti-myc antibody as well as antisera to the Kv1.3 C-terminus, we now demonstrate specific association of these peptide fragments with Kv1.3(T1-). Association of peptide fragments with Kv1.3(T1-) was correlated with integration of both proteins into the membrane. Furthermore, the relative strength and kinetics of this association directly correlated with the ability of fragments to suppress Kv1.3(T1-) current. The rate-limiting step in the sequential synthesis, integration, and formation of a complex was the association of integrated polypeptides within the plane of the lipid bilayer. These results strongly suggest that the physical association of transmembrane segments provides the basis for suppression of K+ channel function by K+ channel peptide fragments in vivo. Moreover, the S1-S2-S3 peptide fragment potently suppressed full-length Kv1.3, thus implicating a role for the S1-S2-S3 region of Kv1.3 in the assembly of the Kv1.3 channel. We refer to these putative association sites as IMA (intramembrane association) sites.
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