TCB Seminar

Structure and Function of Sodium/Proton Antiporter Membrand Proteins

Professor Oliver Beckstein
Center for Biological Physics and Department of Physics
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

Monday, September 26, 2016
3:00 pm
3269 Beckman Institute


Sodium/proton antiporters are integral membrane proteins that are vital for cell homeostasis. In bacteria, they pump sodium ions out of the cell and enable survival in high-salt environments. In humans, they maintain cellular pH and their dysfunction is linked to a variety of complex diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular pathophysiology, and autism. Na+/H+ antiporters are secondary active transporters that utilize the electrochemical gradient of one ionic species to drive the energetically uphill transmembrane transport of the other species. They operate by the alternating access mechanism whereby the protein cycles between an outward facing and inward facing conformation to switch the exposure of substrate binding sites between the extracellular and the intracellular environment. We used a combination of molecular dynamics simulations with X-ray crystallography and functional measurements to adress key questions about the transport mechanism in the two bacterial antiporters NhaA and NapA. In particular, the likely sodium and proton binding sites overlap, as predicted by a previously proposed competitive binding mechanism. A large "elevator-like" conformational transition moves the Na+ binding site across the membrane, consistent with the alternating access mechanism. Based on simulations with varying protonation states of conserved ionizable residues and explicit constant pH MD simulations, we put forward a detailed hypothesis for the transport mechanism.