Digital World Biology
Sodium channel 4EKW from Molecule World, ongoing since 2014
digital model constructed from X-ray crystallography
Sodium channels are proteins that conduct sodium ions through a cell membrane. This rendering shows the sodium channel controlling the movement of sodium into bacteria. Channel proteins are found in the membranes of neurons and create paths that open and close for ions like sodium, potassium, calcium, and chloride to move in and out of neurons. Ion movement initiates neurons’ electrical signals. Brief openings of many sodium channels at the same time produces the electrical signal that travels down axons. The molecular structure of the sodium channels in neurons is not yet known but likely looks similar to this one from bacteria. Scientists use all of these views to understand how individual proteins work. Different views display elements, amino acids, chemical properties, subunits, or chemical structure.
Can you find the inside path (channel) for the sodium ions?
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How the image was made:
Molecular biology, protein chemistry, and X-ray crystallography provide the means to model the structure of individual proteins. A crystal of purified protein is placed in an X-ray beam to create a diffraction pattern. Sets of diffraction patterns taken from multiple angles are reconstructed into 3D models of the protein’s structure. The National Center for Biotechnology Information maintains a database for protein structures investigated by scientists from around the world. The full title of this particular sodium channel within Molecule World is Crystal Structure of the Navab Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel (Wild Type) 3.2A 4EKW.