1. Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics
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Large domain movements through the lipid bilayer mediate substrate release and inhibition of glutamate transporters

  1. Xiaoyu Wang
  2. Olga Boudker  Is a corresponding author
  1. Weill Cornell Medicine, United States
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2020;9:e58417 doi: 10.7554/eLife.58417


Glutamate transporters are essential players in glutamatergic neurotransmission in the brain, where they maintain extracellular glutamate below cytotoxic levels and allow for rounds of transmission. The structural bases of their function are well established, particularly within a model archaeal homologue, sodium and aspartate symporter GltPh. However, the mechanism of gating on the cytoplasmic side of the membrane remains ambiguous. We report Cryo-EM structures of GltPh reconstituted into nanodiscs, including those structurally constrained in the cytoplasm-facing state and either apo, bound to sodium ions only, substrate, or blockers. The structures show that both substrate translocation and release involve movements of the bulky transport domain through the lipid bilayer. They further reveal a novel mode of inhibitor binding and show how solutes release is coupled to protein conformational changes. Finally, we describe how domain movements are associated with the displacement of bound lipids and significant membrane deformations, highlighting the potential regulatory role of the bilayer.

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Author details

  1. Xiaoyu Wang

    Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-8745-8238
  2. Olga Boudker

    Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    Olga Boudker, Senior editor, eLife.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6965-0851


National Institutes of Health (R37NS085318)

  • Olga Boudker

National Institutes of Health (R01NS064357)

  • Olga Boudker

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Lucy R Forrest, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: April 30, 2020
  2. Accepted: November 5, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 6, 2020 (version 1)


? 2020, Wang & Boudker

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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