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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 8;106(36):15291-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0905516106. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

A 3D structure model of the melibiose permease of Escherichia coli represents a distinctive fold for Na+ symporters.

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Department of Cell Physiology and Molecular Biophysics, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX 79430, USA.


The melibiose permease of Escherichia coli (MelB) catalyzes the coupled stoichiometric symport of a galactoside with a cation (either Na(+), Li(+), or H(+)), using free energy from the downhill translocation of one cosubstrate to catalyze the accumulation of the other. Here, we present a 3D structure model of MelB threaded through a crystal structure of the lactose permease of E. coli (LacY), manually adjusted, and energetically minimized. The model contains 442 consecutive residues ( approximately 94% of the polypeptide), including all 12 transmembrane helices and connecting loops, with no steric clashes and superimposes well with the template structure. The electrostatic surface potential calculated from the model is typical for a membrane protein and exhibits a characteristic ring of positive charges around the periphery of the cytoplasmic side. The 3D model indicates that MelB consists of two pseudosymmetrical 6-helix bundles lining an internal hydrophilic cavity, which faces the cytoplasmic side of the membrane. Both sugar and cation binding sites are proposed to lie within the internal cavity. The model is consistent with numerous previous mutational, biochemical/biophysical characterizations as well as low-resolution structural data. Thus, an alternating access mechanism with sequential binding is discussed. The proposed overall fold of MelB is different from the available crystal structures of other Na(+)-coupled transporters, suggesting a distinctive fold for Na(+) symporters.

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