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Biochemistry. 2005 May 31;44(21):7669-77.

Interhelical packing modulates conformational flexibility in the lactose permease of Escherichia coli.

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Department of Physiology, University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095-1662, USA.


A key to obtaining an X-ray structure of the lactose permease of Escherichia coli (LacY) (Abramson, J., Smirnova, I., Kasho, V., Verner, G., Kaback, H. R., and Iwata, S. (2003) Science 301, 549-716) was the use of a mutant in which Cys154 (helix V) is replaced with Gly. LacY containing this mutation strongly favors an inward-facing conformation, which binds ligand with high affinity, but catalyzes little transport and exhibits few if any of the ligand-dependent conformational changes observed with wild-type LacY. The X-ray structure demonstrates that helix V crosses helix I in the approximate middle of the membrane in such a manner that Cys154 lies close to Gly24 (helix I). Therefore, it seems likely that replacing Cys154 with Gly may lead to tighter packing between helices I and V, thereby resulting in the phenotype observed. Consistently, replacement of Gly24 with Cys in the C154G mutant rescues significant transport activity, and the mutant exhibits properties similar to wild-type LacY with respect to substrate binding and thermostability. However, the only other replacements that rescue transport to any extent whatsoever are Val and Asp, both of which are much less effective than Cys. The results suggest that, although helix packing probably plays an important role with respect to the properties of the C154G mutant, the ability of Cys at position 24 to rescue transport activity of C154G is more complicated than simple replacement of bulk between positions 24 and 154. Rather, activity is dependent on more subtle interactions between the helices, and mutations that disrupt interactions between helix IV and loop 6-7 or between helices II and IV also rescue transport in the C154G mutant.

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