Na+-dependent gate dynamics and electrostatic attraction ensure substrate coupling in glutamate transporters

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Science Advances  18 Nov 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 47, eaba9854
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba9854


Excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) harness [Na+], [K+], and [H+] gradients for fast and efficient glutamate removal from the synaptic cleft. Since each glutamate is cotransported with three Na+ ions, [Na+] gradients are the predominant driving force for glutamate uptake. We combined all-atom molecular dynamics simulations, fluorescence spectroscopy, and x-ray crystallography to study Na+:substrate coupling in the EAAT homolog GltPh. A lipidic cubic phase x-ray crystal structure of wild-type, Na+-only bound GltPh at 2.5-Å resolution revealed the fully open, outward-facing state primed for subsequent substrate binding. Simulations and kinetic experiments established that only the binding of two Na+ ions to the Na1 and Na3 sites ensures complete HP2 gate opening via a conformational selection-like mechanism and enables high-affinity substrate binding via electrostatic attraction. The combination of Na+-stabilized gate opening and electrostatic coupling of aspartate to Na+ binding provides a constant Na+:substrate transport stoichiometry over a broad range of neurotransmitter concentrations.

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