The ubiquitous mutation from serine (WT) to asparagine at residue 31 (S31N) in the influenza A M2 channel renders it insensitive to amantadine (AMT) and rimantadine (RMT) block, but it is unknown whether the inhibition results from weak binding or incomplete block. Two-electrode voltage clamp (TEVC) of transfected Xenopus oocytes revealed that the M2 S31N channel is essentially fully blocked by AMT at 10 mM, demonstrating that, albeit weak, AMT binding in a channel results in complete block of its proton current. In contrast, RMT achieves only a modest degree of block in the M2 S31N channel at 1 mM, with very little increase in block at 10 mM, indicating that the RMT binding site in the channel saturates with only modest block. From exponential curve fits to families of proton current wash-in and wash-out traces, the association rate constant (k) is somewhat decreased for both AMT and RMT in the S31N, but the dissociation rate constant (k) is dramatically increased compared with WT. The potentials of mean force (PMF) from adaptive biasing force (ABF) molecular dynamics simulations predict that rate constants should be exquisitely sensitive to the charge state of the His37 selectivity filter of M2. With one exception out of eight cases, predictions from the simulations with one and three charged side chains bracket the experimental rate constants, as expected for the acidic bath used in the TEVC assay. From simulations, the weak binding can be accounted for by changes in the potentials of mean force, but the partial block by RMT remains unexplained.
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