Disulfide Crosslinking of Transport and Trimerization Domains of a Neuronal Glutamate Transporter Restricts the Role of the Substrate to the Gating of the Anion Conductance [Molecular Biophysics]

February 28th, 2014 by Shabaneh, M., Rosental, N., Kanner, B.

Excitatory amino acid transporters remove synaptically released glutamate and maintain its concentrations below neurotoxic levels. EAATs also mediate a thermodynamically uncoupled substrate-gated anion conductance that may modulate cell excitability. A structure of an archeal homologue, which reflects an early intermediate on the proposed substrate translocation path, has been suggested to be similar to an anion conducting conformation. To probe this idea by functional studies, we have introduced two cysteine residues in the neuronal glutamate transporter EAAC1 at positions predicted to be close enough to form a disulfide bond only in outward-facing and early intermediate conformations of the homologue. Upon treatment of Xenopus laevis oocytes expressing the W441C/K269C double mutant with dithiothreitol, radioactive transport was stimulated more than two-fold but potently inhibited by low micromolar concentrations of the oxidizing reagent Copper(II)(1,10-Phenanthroline)3. The substrate-induced currents by the untreated double mutant, reversed at around -20mV, close to the reversal potential of chloride, but treatment with dithiothreitol resulted in transport currents with the same voltage dependence as the wild type. It appears therefore that in the oocyte expression system the introduced cysteine residues in many of the mutant transporters are already crosslinked and are only capable to mediate the substrate-gated anion conductance. Reduction of the disulfide bond now allows these transporters to execute the full transport cycle. Our functional data support the idea that the anion conducting conformation of the neuronal glutamate transporter is associated with an early step of the transport cycle.
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