Conformational changes of the multispecific transporter organic anion transporter 1 (OAT1/SLC22A6) suggests a molecular mechanism for initial stages of drug and metabolite transport

Cell Biochem Biophys. 2011 Nov;61(2):251-9. doi: 10.1007/s12013-011-9191-7.


The solute carrier (SLC) family of transporters play key roles in the movement of charged organic ions across the blood-urine, blood-cerebrospinal fluid, and blood-brain barriers and thus mediate the absorption, disposition, and elimination of many common pharmaceuticals (i.e., nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), antibiotics, and diuretics). They have also been proposed to participate in a remote sensing and signaling network involving small molecules. Nevertheless, other than possessing a 12-transmembrane α-helical topology comprised of two six-helix hemidomains interacting through a long loop, the structural and mechanistic details for these transporters remains unclear. Recent crystallographic studies of bacterial homologs support the idea of a "switching" mechanism, which allows for periodic changes in the overall transporter configuration and cyclic opening of the transporter to the extracellular or cytoplasmic sides of the membrane. To investigate this, computational modeling based on our recent study of glycerol-3-phosphate transporter (GlpT) (Tsigelny et al. J Bioinform Comput Biol 6:885-904, 2008) was performed for organic anion transporter 1 (OAT1/SLC22A6, originally identified as NKT), the prototypical member of this family. OAT1 was inserted into an artificial phospholipid bilayer and the positional change of the six-helix hemidomains relative to each other was followed for 100 ns. The hemidomains were found to tilt relative to each other while their configuration is mostly inflexible. Since the modeling was performed for about 100 ns, the data suggest that this tilting mechanism might explain the early steps in the transport of organic anionic metabolites, drugs, and toxins by this clinically important transporter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Organic Anion Transport Protein 1 / chemistry*
  • Organic Anion Transport Protein 1 / metabolism*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Organic Anion Transport Protein 1
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Phospholipids