Crystal structure of the anion exchanger domain of human erythrocyte band 3

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Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261, pp. 680-684
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4335

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Getting rid of carbon dioxide

In mammals, red blood cells deliver oxygen to tissues and remove carbon dioxide. Key to this essential process is a membrane protein called anion exchanger 1 (AE1) which transports bicarbonate (formed from carbon dioxide) out of red blood cells in exchange for chloride. This decreases the pH inside the blood cells, so that oxygen is released from hemoglobin and can diffuse into tissues. Arakawa et al. report the crystal structure of the transmembrane anion exchanger domain of AE1, which includes 14 transmembrane helices. The structure provides a basis for understanding the effects of mutations that lead to red blood cell diseases and also gives insight into the mechanism of ion transport.

Science, this issue p. 680


Anion exchanger 1 (AE1), also known as band 3 or SLC4A1, plays a key role in the removal of carbon dioxide from tissues by facilitating the exchange of chloride and bicarbonate across the plasma membrane of erythrocytes. An isoform of AE1 is also present in the kidney. Specific mutations in human AE1 cause several types of hereditary hemolytic anemias and/or distal renal tubular acidosis. Here we report the crystal structure of the band 3 anion exchanger domain (AE1CTD) at 3.5 angstroms. The structure is locked in an outward-facing open conformation by an inhibitor. Comparing this structure with a substrate-bound structure of the uracil transporter UraA in an inward-facing conformation allowed us to identify the anion-binding position in the AE1CTD, and to propose a possible transport mechanism that could explain why selected mutations lead to disease.

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