Ammonium transport proteins with changes in one of the conserved pore histidines have different performance in ammonia and methylamine conduction

Wang, Jinan and Fulford, Tim and Shao, Qiang and Javelle, Arnaud and Yang, Huaiyu and Zhu, Weiliang and Merrick, Mike (2013) Ammonium transport proteins with changes in one of the conserved pore histidines have different performance in ammonia and methylamine conduction. PLOS One, 8 (5). e62745. ISSN 1932-6203

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    Abstract

    Two conserved histidine residues are located near the mid-point of the conduction channel of ammonium transport proteins. The role of these histidines in ammonia and methylamine transport was evaluated by using a combination of in vivo studies, molecular dynamics (MD) simulation, and potential of mean force (PMF) calculations. Our in vivo results showed that a single change of either of the conserved histidines to alanine leads to the failure to transport methylamine but still facilitates good growth on ammonia, whereas double histidine variants completely lose their ability to transport both methylamine and ammonia. Molecular dynamics simulations indicated the molecular basis of the in vivo observations. They clearly showed that a single histidine variant (H168A or H318A) of AmtB confines the rather hydrophobic methylamine more strongly than ammonia around the mutated sites, resulting in dysfunction in conducting the former but not the latter molecule. PMF calculations further revealed that the single histidine variants form a potential energy well of up to 6 kcal/mol for methylamine, impairing conduction of this substrate. Unlike the single histidine variants, the double histidine variant, H168A/H318A, of AmtB was found to lose its unidirectional property of transporting both ammonia and methylamine. This could be attributed to a greatly increased frequency of opening of the entrance gate formed by F215 and F107, in this variant compared to wild-type, with a resultant lowering of the energy barrier for substrate to return to the periplasm.