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J Biol Chem. 2011 Nov 11;286(45):39595-605. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.299164. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

The role of transmembrane segment TM3 in the xanthine permease XanQ of Escherichia coli.

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


The xanthine permease XanQ of Escherichia coli is used as a study prototype for function-structure analysis of the ubiquitous nucleobase-ascorbate transporter (NAT/NCS2) family. Our previous mutagenesis study of polar residues of XanQ has shown that Asn-93 at the middle of putative TM3 is a determinant of substrate affinity and specificity. To study the role of TM3 in detail we employed Cys-scanning mutagenesis. Using a functional mutant devoid of Cys residues (C-less), each amino acid residue in sequence 79-107 (YGIVGSGLLSIQSVNFSFVTVMIALGSSM) including TM3 (underlined) and flanking sequences was replaced individually with Cys. Of 29 single-Cys mutants, 20 accumulate xanthine to 40-110% of the steady state observed with C-less, six (S88C, F94C, A102C, G104C, S106C) accumulate to low levels (10-30%) and three (G83C, G85C, N93C) are inactive. Extensive mutagenesis reveals that Gly-83 and, to a lesser extent, Gly-85, are crucial for expression in the membrane. Replacements of Asn-93 disrupt affinity (Thr) or permit recognition of 8-methylxanthine which is not a wild-type ligand (Ala, Ser, Asp) and utilization of uric acid which is not a wild-type substrate (Ala, Ser). Replacements of Phe-94 impair affinity for 2-thio and 6-thioxanthine (Tyr) or 3-methylxanthine (Ile). Single-Cys mutants S84C, L86C, L87C, and S95C are highly sensitive to inactivation by N-ethylmaleimide. Our data reveal that key residues of TM3 cluster in two conserved sequence motifs, (83)GSGLL(87) and (93)NFS(95), and highlight the importance of Asn-93 and Phe-94 in substrate recognition and specificity; these findings are supported by structural modeling on the recently described x-ray structure of the uracil-transporting homolog UraA.

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