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In Escherichia coli, the GlpT transporter, a member of the major facilitator superfamily, moves external glycerol 3-phosphate (G3P) into the cytoplasm in exchange for cytoplasmic phosphate. Study of intact cells showed that both GlpT and HisGlpT, a variant with an N-terminal six-histidine tag, are inhibited (50% inhibitory concentration approximately 35 microM) by the hydrophilic thiol-specific agent p-mercurichlorobenzosulfonate (PCMBS) in a substrate-protectable fashion; by contrast, two other thiol-directed probes, N-maleimidylpropionylbiocytin (MPB) and [2-(trimethylammonium)ethyl]methanethiosulfonate (MTSET), have no effect. Use of variants in which the HisGlpT native cysteines are replaced individually by serine or glycine implicates Cys-176, on transmembrane helix 5 (TM5), as the major target for PCMBS. The inhibitor sensitivity of purified and reconstituted HisGlpT or its cysteine substitution derivatives was found to be consistent with the findings with intact cells, except that a partial response to PCMBS was found for the C176G mutant, suggesting the presence of a mixed population of both right-side-out (RSO) (resistant) and inside-out (ISO) (sensitive) orientations after reconstitution. To clarify this issue, we studied a derivative (P290C) in which the RSO molecules can be blocked independently due to an MPB-responsive cysteine in an extracellular loop. In this derivative, comparisons of variants with (P290C) and without (P290C/C176G) Cys-176 indicated that this residue shows substrate-protectable inhibition by PCMBS in the ISO orientation in proteoliposomes. Since PCMBS gains access to Cys-176 from both periplasmic and cytoplasmic surfaces of the protein (in intact cells and in a reconstituted ISO orientation, respectively) and since access is unavailable when the substrate is present, we propose that Cys-176 is located on the transport pathway and that TM5 has a role in lining this pathway.


Mon-Chou Fann, Anne Busch, Peter C Maloney. Functional characterization of cysteine residues in GlpT, the glycerol 3-phosphate transporter of Escherichia coli. Journal of bacteriology. 2003 Jul;185(13):3863-70

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PMID: 12813080

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