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2020 - A two-lane mechanism for selective biological ammonium transport

Icon N1   SURFE²R N1 publication in eLife (2020)

Authors:
Williamson G., Tamburrino G., Bizior A., Boeckstaens M., Mirandela G.D., Bage M.G., Pisliakov A., Ives C.M., Terras E., Hoskisson P.A., Marini A.M., Zachariae U., Javelle A.

Journal:
eLife (2020) doi.org/10.7554/eLife.57183


Abstract:

The transport of charged molecules across biological membranes faces the dual problem of accommodating charges in a highly hydrophobic environment while maintaining selective substrate translocation. This has been the subject of a particular controversy for the exchange of ammonium across cellular membranes, an essential process in all domains of life. Ammonium transport is mediated by the ubiquitous Amt/Mep/Rh transporters that includes the human Rhesus factors. Here, using a combination of electrophysiology, yeast functional complementation and extended molecular dynamics simulations, we reveal a unique two-lane pathway for electrogenic NH4+ transport in two archetypal members of the family, the transporters AmtB from Escherichia coli and Rh50 from Nitrosomonas europaea. The pathway underpins a mechanism by which charged H+ and neutral NH3 are carried separately across the membrane after NH4+ deprotonation. This mechanism defines a new principle of achieving transport selectivity against competing ions in a biological transport process.


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