Perspectives on the structure-function of ABC transporters: The Switch and Constant Contact Models
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, 2012, 109 (3), pp. 95 - 107
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ABC transporters constitute one of the largest protein families across the kingdoms of archaea, eubacteria and eukarya. They couple ATP hydrolysis to vectorial translocation of diverse substrates across membranes. The ABC transporter architecture comprises two transmembrane domains and two cytosolic ATP-binding cassettes. During 2002-2012, nine prokaryotic ABC transporter structures and two eukaryotic structures have been solved to medium resolution. Despite a wealth of biochemical, biophysical, and structural data, fundamental questions remain regarding the coupling of ATP hydrolysis to unidirectional substrate translocation, and the mechanistic suite of steps involved. The mechanics of the ATP cassette dimer is defined most popularly by the 'Switch Model', which proposes that hydrolysis in each protomer is sequential, and that as the sites are freed of nucleotide, the protomers lose contact across a large solvent-filled gap of 20-30 å; as captured in several X-ray solved structures. Our 'Constant Contact' model for the operational mechanics of ATP binding and hydrolysis in the ATP-binding cassettes is derived from the 'alternating sites' model, proposed in 1995, and which requires an intrinsic asymmetry in the ATP sites, but does not require the partner protomers to lose contact. Thus one of the most debated issues regarding the function of ABC transporters is whether the cooperative mechanics of ATP hydrolysis requires the ATP cassettes to separate or remain in constant contact and this dilemma is discussed at length in this review. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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