Glutamate transporters play important roles in bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. Their function in the mammalian central nervous system is essential for preventing excitotoxicity, and their dysregulation is implicated in many diseases, such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's. Elucidating their transport mechanism would further the understanding of these transporters and promote drug design as they provide compelling targets for understanding the pathophysiology of diseases and may have a direct role in the treatment of conditions involving glutamate excitotoxicity. This review outlines the insights into the transport cycle, uncoupled chloride conductance and modulation, as well as identifying areas that require further investigation.
Transport of molecules and ions across biological membranes is an essential process in all organisms. It is carried out by a range of evolutionarily conserved primary and secondary transporters. A significant portion of the primary transporters belong to the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) superfamily, which utilise the free-energy from ATP hydrolysis to shuttle many different substrates across various biological membranes, and consequently, are involved in both normal and abnormal physiology. In humans, ABC transporter-associated pathologies are perhaps best exemplified by multidrug-resistance transporters that efflux many xenobiotic compounds due to their remarkable substrate polyspecificity. Accordingly, understanding the transport mechanism(s) is of great significance, and indeed, much progress has been made in recent years, particularly from structural studies on ABC exporters. Consequently, the general mechanism of ‘alternate access’ has been modified to describe individual transporter nuances, though some aspects of the transport process remain unclear. Moreover, as new information has emerged, the physiological relevance of the ‘open-apo’ conformation of MsbA (a bacterial exporter) has been questioned and, by extension, its contribution to mechanistic models. We present here a comprehensive overview of the most recently solved structures of ABC exporters, focusing on new insights regarding the nature of substrate polyspecificity and the physiological relevance of the ‘open-apo’ conformation. This review evaluates the claim that the latter may be an artefact of detergent solubilisation, and we hypothesise that the biophysical properties of the membrane play a key role in the function of ABC exporters allowing them to behave like a ‘spring-hinge’ during their transport cycle.
Glutamate transporters are responsible for uptake of the neurotransmitter glutamate in mammalian central nervous systems. Their archaeal homologue Glt Ph , an aspartate transporter isolated from Pyrococcus horikoshii , has been the focus of extensive studies through crystallography, MD simulations and single-molecule FRET (smFRET). Here, we summarize the recent research progress on Glt Ph , in the hope of gaining some insights into the transport mechanism of this aspartate transporter.
Membrane proteins represent one of the most important targets for pharmaceutical companies. Unfortunately, technical limitations have long been a major hindrance in our understanding of the function and structure of such proteins. Recent years have seen the refinement of classical approaches and the emergence of new technologies that have resulted in a significant step forward in the field of membrane protein research. This review summarizes some of the current techniques used for studying membrane proteins, with overall advantages and drawbacks for each method.