Elka R Georgieva, P. Borbat, C. Ginter
Dec 20, 2012
Nature structural & molecular biology
Sodium and aspartate symporter from Pyrococcus horikoshii, GltPh, is a homolog of the mammalian glutamate transporters, homotrimeric integral membrane proteins that control neurotransmitter levels in brain synapses. These transporters function by alternating between outward-facing and inward-facing states, in which the substrate binding site is oriented toward the extracellular space and the cytoplasm, respectively. Here we used double electron-electron resonance (DEER) spectroscopy to probe the structure and the state distribution of the subunits in the trimer in distinct hydrophobic environments of detergent micelles and lipid bilayers. Our experiments reveal a conformational ensemble of protomers that sample the outward-facing and inward-facing states with nearly equal probabilities, indicative of comparable energies, and independently of each other. On average, the distributions varied only modestly in detergent and in bilayers, but in several mutants unique conformations were stabilized by the latter.