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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2012 Jan 15;19(2):207-11. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.2197.

Experimental conditions can obscure the second high-affinity site in LeuT.

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Center for Molecular Recognition, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York, USA.


Neurotransmitter:Na(+) symporters (NSSs), the targets of antidepressants and psychostimulants, recapture neurotransmitters from the synapse in a Na(+)-dependent symport mechanism. The crystal structure of the NSS homolog LeuT from Aquifex aeolicus revealed one leucine substrate in an occluded, centrally located (S1) binding site next to two Na(+) ions. Computational studies combined with binding and flux experiments identified a second substrate (S2) site and a molecular mechanism of Na(+)-substrate symport that depends upon the allosteric interaction of substrate molecules in the two high-affinity sites. Here we show that the S2 site, which has not yet been identified by crystallographic approaches, can be blocked during preparation of detergent-solubilized LeuT, thereby obscuring its crucial role in Na(+)-coupled symport. This finding points to the need for caution in selecting experimental environments in which the properties and mechanistic features of membrane proteins can be delineated.

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