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The Role of Local Hydration and Hydrogen-Bonding Dynamics in Ion and Solute Release from Ion-Coupled Secondary Transporters

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journal contribution
posted on 22.03.2011, 00:00 by Chunfeng Zhao, Sergei Yu. Noskov
Recent progress in crystallographic studies of sodium-coupled secondary transporters has revealed striking similarities in the structural organization of ion and solute binding. Previous reports suggested that the Na2 sodium binding site in the neurotransmitter sodium symporter (NSS) leucine transporter (LeuT) is conserved across sodium/proton coupled secondary transporters of many distantly related families. This site is implicated in the conformational dynamics controlled by the binding and release of both translocated solute and ion(s) through a mechanism that largely remains unknown. In this study, we used extensive equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations, potential of mean force (PMF) computations, and quasi-harmonic analysis of the LeuT transporter with and without sodium ion bound at the Na2 site to delineate the role of this site in the conformational dynamics of the protein. PMF computations show that in presence of the sodium ion in Na2 the conserved T354 residue is locked into a single rotameric state in contrast to two degenerate states available in the absence of ion in Na2. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations suggest the formation of a stable water wire from the cytoplasm to the Na2 site in the occluded state. It is plausible that local hydration plays an important role in transport cycle facilitating release of the ion from Na2. An unbinding of the ion from the Na2 site leads to a tightening of the extracellular thin gates and a destabilization of the intracellular thin gate and thus may promote an unbinding of the cotransported substrate. The study lends additional support to the hypothesis that one of the main drivers in the transport cycle of Na-coupled secondary transporters is the binding of the Na2 ion that controls dynamical equilibrium between an inward-facing to an outward-facing conformation.