Research Article

Molecular Basis of Alternating Access Membrane Transport by the Sodium-Hydantoin Transporter Mhp1

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Science  23 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5977, pp. 470-473
DOI: 10.1126/science.1186303

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Triangulating to Mechanism

Cellular uptake and release of a variety of substrates are mediated by secondary transporters, but no crystal structures are known for all three fundamental states of the transport cycle, which has limited explanations for their proposed mechanisms. Shimamura et al. (p. 470) report a 3.8-angstrom structure of the inward-facing conformation of the bacterial sodium-benzylhydantoin transport protein, Mhp1, complementing the other two available structures. Molecular modeling for the interconversions of these structures shows a simple rigid body rotation of four helices relative to the rest of the structure in which the protein switches reversibly from outward- to inward-facing.


The structure of the sodium-benzylhydantoin transport protein Mhp1 from Microbacterium liquefaciens comprises a five-helix inverted repeat, which is widespread among secondary transporters. Here, we report the crystal structure of an inward-facing conformation of Mhp1 at 3.8 angstroms resolution, complementing its previously described structures in outward-facing and occluded states. From analyses of the three structures and molecular dynamics simulations, we propose a mechanism for the transport cycle in Mhp1. Switching from the outward- to the inward-facing state, to effect the inward release of sodium and benzylhydantoin, is primarily achieved by a rigid body movement of transmembrane helices 3, 4, 8, and 9 relative to the rest of the protein. This forms the basis of an alternating access mechanism applicable to many transporters of this emerging superfamily.

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