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The Journal of general physiology

Structural basis for the channel function of a degraded ABC transporter, CFTR (ABCC7).


PMID 22042986

Abstract

Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is a member of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter superfamily, but little is known about how this ion channel that harbors an uninterrupted ion permeation pathway evolves from a transporter that works by alternately exposing its substrate conduit to the two sides of the membrane. Here, we assessed reactivity of intracellularly applied thiol-specific probes with cysteine residues substituted into the 12th transmembrane segment (TM12) of CFTR. Our experimental data showing high reaction rates of substituted cysteines toward the probes, strong blocker protection of cysteines against reaction, and reaction-induced alterations in channel conductance support the idea that TM12 of CFTR contributes to the lining of the ion permeation pathway. Together with previous work, these findings raise the possibility that pore-lining elements of CFTR involve structural components resembling those that form the substrate translocation pathway of ABC transporters. In addition, comparison of reaction rates in the open and closed states of the CFTR channel leads us to propose that upon channel opening, the wide cytoplasmic vestibule tightens and the pore-lining TM12 rotates along its helical axis. This simple model for gating conformational changes in the inner pore domain of CFTR argues that the gating transition of CFTR and the transport cycle of ABC proteins share analogous conformational changes. Collectively, our data corroborate the popular hypothesis that degradation of the cytoplasmic-side gate turned an ABC transporter into the CFTR channel.

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