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J Biol Chem. 2010 Jun 18;285(25):19422-33. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.120543. Epub 2010 Apr 20.

Purine substrate recognition by the nucleobase-ascorbate transporter signature motif in the YgfO xanthine permease: ASN-325 binds and ALA-323 senses substrate.

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Laboratory of Biological Chemistry, University of Ioannina Medical School, 45110 Ioannina, Greece.


The nucleobase-ascorbate transporter (NAT) signature motif is a conserved 11-amino acid sequence of the ubiquitous NAT/NCS2 family, essential for function and selectivity of both a bacterial (YgfO) and a fungal (UapA) purine-transporting homolog. We examined the role of NAT motif in more detail, using Cys-scanning and site-directed alkylation analysis of the YgfO xanthine permease of Escherichia coli. Analysis of single-Cys mutants in the sequence 315-339 for sensitivity to inactivation by 2-sulfonatoethyl methanethiosulfonate (MTSES(-)) and N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) showed a similar pattern: highly sensitive mutants clustering at the motif sequence (323-329) and a short alpha-helical face downstream (332, 333, 336). In the presence of substrate, N325C is protected from alkylation with either MTSES(-) or NEM, whereas sensitivity of A323C to inactivation by NEM is enhanced, shifting IC(50) from 34 to 14 microM. Alkylation or sensitivity of the other mutants is unaffected by substrate; the lack of an effect on Q324C is attributed to gross inability of this mutant for high affinity binding. Site-directed mutants G333R and S336N at the alpha-helical face downstream the motif display specific changes in ligand recognition relative to wild type; G333R allows binding of 7-methyl and 8-methylxanthine, whereas S336N disrupts affinity for 6-thioxanthine. Finally, all assayable motif-mutants are highly accessible to MTSES(-) from the periplasmic side. The data suggest that the NAT motif region lines the solvent- and substrate-accessible inner cavity, Asn-325 is at the binding site, Ala-323 responds to binding with a specific conformational shift, and Gly-333 and Ser-336 form part of the purine permeation pathway.

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