2021 - A mechanistic switch from selective transporter to an ion channel impairs the filamentation signalling capability of ammonium transceptors in yeast

 Icon N1   SURFE2R N1 pre-print publication in bioRxiv (2021)

Williamson G., Brito A. S., Bizior A., Tamburrino G., Mirandela G. D., Harris T., Hoskisson P. A., Zachariae U., Marini A. M., Boeckstaens M., Javelle A.


bioRxiv (2021) doi:10.1101/2021.08.25.457613


Ammonium translocation through biological membranes by the ubiquitous Amt-Mep-Rh family of transporters plays a key role in all domains of life. Two highly conserved histidine residues protrude into the lumen of these transporters, forming the family’s characteristic Twin-His motif. It has been hypothesized that the motif is essential to confer the selectivity of the transport mechanism. Here, using a combination of in vitro electrophysiology, in vivo yeast functional complementation and in silico molecular dynamics simulations, we demonstrate that variations in the Twin-His motif trigger a mechanistic switch between a specific transporter, depending on ammonium deprotonation, to an unspecific ion channel activity. We therefore propose that there is no selective filter that governs the specificity in Amt-Mep transporters but the inherent mechanism of translocation, dependent on the fragmentation of the substrate, ensures the high specificity of the translocation. We further show that both mechanisms coexist in fungal Mep2 Twin-His variants, disrupting the transceptor function and so inhibiting the filamentation process. These data strongly support a transport mechanism-mediated signalling process in the long-standing debate on the sensory function of Mep2-like transporters.

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