Scaffold protein-mediated ion channel clustering at unique membrane sites is important for electrical signaling. Yet, the mechanism(s) by which scaffold protein-ion channel interactions lead to channel clustering or how cluster ion channel density is regulated is mostly not known. The voltage-activated potassium channel (Kv) represents an excellent model to address these questions as the mechanism underlying its interaction with the post-synaptic density 95 (PSD-95) scaffold protein is known to be controlled by the length of the extended ‘ball and chain’ sequence comprising the C-terminal channel region. Here, using sub-diffraction high-resolution imaging microscopy, we show that Kv channel ‘chain’ length regulates Kv channel density with a ‘bell’-shaped dependence, reflecting a balance between thermodynamic considerations controlling ‘chain’ recruitment by PSD-95 and steric hindrance due to the spatial proximity of multiple channel molecules. Our results thus reveal an entropy-based mode of channel cluster density regulation that mirrors the entropy-based regulation of the Kv channel-PSD-95 interaction. The implications of these findings for electrical signaling are discussed.
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