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J Biol Chem. 2006 Sep 8;281(36):26501-11. Epub 2006 Jul 14.

Exploiting reaction intermediates of the ATPase reaction to elucidate the mechanism of transport by P-glycoprotein (ABCB1).

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, Center for Cancer Research, NCI, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-4256, USA.


The transport cycle of ABC transporters in general and P-glycoprotein in particular has been extensively studied, but the molecular mechanism remains controversial. We identify stable reaction intermediates in the progression of the P-glycoprotein-mediated ATPase reaction equivalent to the enzyme-substrate (E.S, P-glycoprotein.ATP) and enzyme-product (E.P, P-glycoprotein.ADP.P(i)) reaction intermediates. These have been characterized using the photoaffinity analog 8-azido-[alpha-32P]ATP as well as under equilibrium conditions using [alpha-32P]ATP, in which a cross-linking step is not involved. Similar results were obtained when 8-azido-[alpha-32P]ATP or [alpha-32P]ATP was used. The reaction intermediates were characterized based on their kinetic properties and the nature (triphosphate/diphosphate) of the trapped nucleotide. Using this defined framework and the Walker B E556Q/E1201Q mutant that traps nucleotide in the absence of vanadate or beryllium fluoride, the high to low affinity switch in the transport substrate binding site can be attributed to the formation of the E.S reaction intermediate of the ATPase reaction. Importantly, the posthydrolysis E.P state continues to have low affinity for substrate, suggesting that conformational changes that form the E.S complex are coupled to the conformational change at the transport substrate site to do mechanical work. Thus, the formation of E.S reaction intermediate during a single turnover of the catalytic cycle appears to provide the initial power stroke for movement of drug substrate from inner leaflet to outer leaflet of lipid bilayer. This novel approach applies transition state theory to elucidate the mechanism of P-glycoprotein and other ABC transporters and has wider applications in testing cause-effect hypotheses in coupled systems.

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