TCB Publications - Abstract

Ichia Chen, Shashank Pant, Qianyi Wu, Rosemary Cater, Meghna Sobti, Robert Vandenberg, Alastair G. Stewart, Emad Tajkhorshid, Josep Font, and Renae Ryan. Glutamate transporters have a chloride channel with two hydrophobic gates. Nature, 591:327-331, 2021.

CHEN2021-ET Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, therefore its precise control is vital for maintaining normal brain function and preventing excitotoxicity. Removal of extracellular glutamate is achieved by plasma membrane- bound transporters, which couple glutamate transport to sodium, potassium and pH gradients using an elevator mechanism. Glutamate transporters also conduct chloride ions via a channel-like process that is thermodynamically uncoupled from transport. However, the molecular mechanisms that allow these dual-function transporters to carry out two seemingly contradictory roles are unknown. Here we report the cryo-electron microscopy structure of a glutamate transporter homologue in an open-channel state, revealing an aqueous cavity that is formed during the transport cycle. By studying functional properties combined with molecular dynamics simulations, we show that this cavity is an aqueous-accessible chloride permeation pathway gated by two hydrophobic regions and is conserved across mammalian and archaeal glutamate transporters. Our findings provide insight into the mechanism by which glutamate transporters support their dual function and add a crucial piece of information to aid mapping of the complete transport cycle shared by the SLC1A transporter family.

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