The Journal of biological chemistry

The reactivity of the gamma-aminobutyric acid transporter GAT-1 toward sulfhydryl reagents is conformationally sensitive. Identification of a major target residue.

PMID 10438469


The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transporter GAT-1 is a prototype of neurotransmitter transporters that maintain low synaptic levels of the transmitter. Transport by GAT-1 is sensitive to the polar sulfhydryl reagent 2-aminoethyl methanethiosulfonate. Following replacement of endogenous cysteines to other residues by site-directed mutagenesis, we have identified cysteine 399 as the major determinant of the sensitivity of the transporter to sulfhydryl modification. Cysteine-399 is located in the intracellular loop connecting putative transmembrane domains eight and nine. Binding of both sodium and chloride leads to a reduced sensitivity to sulfhydryl reagents, whereas subsequent binding of GABA increases it. Strikingly binding of the nontransportable GABA analogue SKF100330A gives rise to a marked protection against sulfhydryl modification. These effects were not observed in C399S transporters. Under standard conditions GAT-1 is almost insensitive toward the impermeant 2-(trimethylammonium)ethyl methanethiosulfonate. However, in a chloride-free medium, addition of SKF100330A renders wild type GAT-1, but not C399S, very sensitive to this impermeant reagent. These observations indicate that the accessibility of cysteine 399 is highly dependent on the conformation of GAT-1. Consequently, topological assignments based on accessibility of endogeneous or engineered cysteines to small polar sulfhydryl reagents need to be interpreted with extreme caution.