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Structure. 2002 Sep;10(9):1273-84.

Translocation mechanism of long sugar chains across the maltoporin membrane channel.

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Department of Structural Biology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


Maltoporin allows permeation of long maltodextrin chains. It tightly binds the amphiphilic sugar, offering both hydrophobic interactions with a helical lane of aromatic residues and H bonds with ionic side chains. The minimum-energy path of maltohexaose translocation is obtained by the conjugate peak refinement method, which optimizes a continuous string of conformers without applying constraints. This reveals that the protein is passive while the sugar glides screw-like along the aromatic lane. Near instant switching of sugar hydroxyl H bond partners results in two small energy barriers (of approximately 4 kcal/mol each) during register shift by one glucosyl unit, in agreement with a kinetic analysis of experimental dissociation rates for varying sugar chain lengths. Thus, maltoporin functions like an efficient translocation "enzyme," and the slow rate of the register shift (approximately 1/ms) is due to high collisional friction.

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