PerspectiveStructural Biology

The Tao of Chloride Transporter Structure

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Science  29 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6004, pp. 601-602
DOI: 10.1126/science.1198306

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Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a central text of Asian philosophy dating to the 6th century B.C.E., offers paths to enlightenment, in part by considering apparent paradoxes. “We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel,” it notes. “But it is on the space where nothing is that the usefulness of the wheel depends” (1). Such thinking applies equally well today—not only to the hole in the center of a wheel, but also to holes in proteins that move ions across cell membranes. Indeed, on page 635 of this issue, Feng et al. (2) present a new structure of a chloride (Cl) transporter that reveals the mechanistic importance of an aqueous hole through the center of the protein: a space where nothing is. This new structure clarifies several paradoxical features of the unusually diverse CLC family of Cl-transporting proteins.