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Biochemistry. 2008 Oct 14;47(41):10904-14. doi: 10.1021/bi800778d. Epub 2008 Sep 20.

Functional role of transmembrane helix 6 in drug binding and transport by the ABC transporter MsbA.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


The ATP-binding cassette transporter MsbA in Gram-negative bacteria can transport antibiotics and toxic ions. However, the key functional regions in MsbA which determine substrate specificity remain to be identified. We recently examined published mutations in the human MsbA homologue ABCB1 that alter multidrug transport in cells and identified mutations that affect the specificity for individual substrates (termed change-in-specificity mutations). When superimposed on the corrected 3.7 A resolution crystal structure of homodimeric MsbA from S almonella typhimurium, these change-in-specificity mutations colocalize in a major groove in each of the two "wings" of transmembrane helices (TMHs) that point away from one another toward the periplasm. Near the apex of the groove, the periplasmic side of TMH 6 in both monomers contains a hotspot of change-in-specificity mutations and residues which, when replaced with cysteines in ABCB1, covalently interact with thiol-reactive drug analogues. We tested the importance of this region of TMH 6 for drug-protein interactions in Escherichia coli MsbA. In particular, we focused on conserved S289 and S290 residues in the hotspot. Their simultaneous replacement with alanine (termed the SASA mutant) significantly reduced the level of binding and transport of ethidium and Taxol by MsbA, whereas the interactions with Hoechst 33342 and erythromycin remained unaffected. Hence, the SASA mutation is associated with a change-in-specificity phenotype analogous to that of the change-in-specificity mutations in ABCB1. This study demonstrates for the first time the significance of TMH 6 for drug binding and transport by MsbA. Based on these data, a possible mechanism for alternating access of drug-binding surfaces in MsbA is discussed.

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