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Biophys J. 2003 Nov;85(5):2977-87.

Glycerol conductance and physical asymmetry of the Escherichia coli glycerol facilitator GlpF.

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Department of Physics and Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA.


The aquaglyceroporin GlpF is a transmembrane channel of Escherichia coli that facilitates the uptake of glycerol by the cell. Its high glycerol uptake rate is crucial for the cell to survive in very low glycerol concentrations. Although GlpF allows both influx and outflux of glycerol, its structure, similar to the structure of maltoporin, exhibits a significant degree of asymmetry. The potential of mean force characterizing glycerol in the channel shows a corresponding asymmetry with an attractive vestibule only at the periplasmic side. In this study, we analyze the potential of mean force, showing that a simplified six-step model captures the kinetics and yields a glycerol conduction rate that agrees well with observation. The vestibule improves the conduction rate by 40% and 75% at 10- micro M and 10-mM periplasmic glycerol concentrations, respectively. In addition, neither the conduction rate nor the conduction probability for a single glycerol (efficiency) depends on the orientation of GlpF. GlpF appears to conduct equally well in both directions under physiological conditions.

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