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Modeling of the Binding of Octopamine and Dopamine in Insect Monoamine Transporters Reveals Structural and Electrostatic Differences

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journal contribution
posted on 03.01.2019, 00:00 by Sandra Arancibia, Matías Marambio, Jorge M Campusano, Angélica Fierro
Octopamine, a trace amine in mammals, is a major neurotransmitter linked to important biological processes in insects. Interestingly, one of the molecular entities responsible for octopamine availability, the octopamine transporter (OAT), has not been identified in certain insect species. For instance, no OAT has been reported in the fly Drosophila melanogaster (Dm), and the molecule involved in octopamine reuptake in Drosophila is not known. Here, we used molecular modeling methodologies to obtain three-dimensional insights for the dopamine transporter (DAT) and OAT in a common agricultural pest insect, Trichoplusia ni (Tni). Our results show several similarities but also significant differences in the general structures of the proteins of Dm and Tni. One important difference is observed in the ligand binding cavity, where a negatively charged amino acid present in both dopamine transporters is replaced by a polar neutral residue in the Trichoplusia OAT. This modification could influence both the binding mode and the driving force involved in the transport mechanism of these amines into neurons of these species. We also obtained data that support the idea that octopamine could bind and possibly be transported by DmDAT. The structural characterization of macromolecules from different insect species is fundamental in the agricultural field to gain insights into the design of new compounds for controlling pests.