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J Biol Chem. 2013 Mar 22;288(12):8231-7. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.438432. Epub 2013 Feb 5.

Intracellular gating in an inward-facing state of aspartate transporter Glt(Ph) is regulated by the movements of the helical hairpin HP2.

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Department of Computational and Systems Biology, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Sodium-coupled neurotransmitter transporters play a key role in neuronal signaling by clearing excess transmitter from the synapse. Structural data on a trimeric archaeal aspartate transporter, Glt(Ph), have provided valuable insights into structural features of human excitatory amino acid transporters. However, the time-resolved mechanisms of substrate binding and release, as well as that of coupling to sodium co-transport, remain largely unknown for this important family. We present here the results of the most extensive simulations performed to date for Glt(Ph) in both outward-facing and inward-facing states by taking advantage of significant advances made in recent years in molecular simulation technology. The generated multiple microsecond trajectories consistently show that the helical hairpin HP2, not HP1, serves as an intracellular gate (in addition to its extracellular gating role). In contrast to previous proposals, HP1 can neither initiate nor accommodate neurotransmitter release without prior opening of HP2 by at least 4.0 Å. Aspartate release invariably follows that of a sodium ion located near the HP2 gate entrance. Asp-394 on TM8 and Arg-276 on HP1 emerge as key residues that promote the reorientation and diffusion of substrate toward the cell interior. These findings underscore the significance of examining structural dynamics, as opposed to static structure(s), to make inferences on the mechanisms of transport and key interactions.

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