The sodium- and chloride-coupled GABA transporter GAT-1 is a member of the neurotransmitter:sodium:symporters, which are crucial for synaptic transmission. Structural work on the bacterial homologue LeuT suggests that extracellular loop 4 closes the extracellular solvent pathway when the transporter becomes inward-facing. To test whether this model can be extrapolated to GAT-1, cysteine residues were introduced at positions 359 and 448 of extracellular loop 4 and transmembrane helix 10, respectively. Treatment of HeLa cells, expressing the double cysteine mutant S359C/K448C with the oxidizing reagent copper(II)(1,10-phenantroline)3, resulted in a significant inhibition of [(3)H]GABA transport. However, transport by the single cysteine mutant S359C was also inhibited by the oxidant, whereas its activity was almost 4-fold stimulated by dithiothreitol. Both effects were attenuated when the conserved cysteine residues, Cys-164 and/or Cys-173, were replaced by serine. These cysteines are located in extracellular loop 2, the role of which in the structure and function of the eukaryotic neurotransmitter:sodium:symporters remains unknown. The inhibition of transport of S359C by the oxidant was markedly reduced under conditions expected to increase the proportion of inward-facing transporters, whereas the reactivity of the mutants to a membrane-impermeant sulfhydryl reagent was not conformationally sensitive. Our data suggest that extracellular loops 2 and 4 come into close proximity to each other in the outward-facing conformation of GAT-1.