A partially-open inward-facing intermediate conformation of LeuT is associated with Na + release and substrate transport

Nat Commun. 2018 Jan 15;9(1):230. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02202-y.


Neurotransmitter:sodium symporters (NSS), targets of antidepressants and psychostimulants, clear neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft through sodium (Na+)-coupled transport. Substrate and Na+ are thought to be transported from the extracellular to intracellular space through an alternating access mechanism by coordinated conformational rearrangements in the symporter that alternately expose the binding sites to each side of the membrane. However, the mechanism by which the binding of ligands coordinates conformational changes occurring on opposite sides of the membrane is not well understood. Here, we report the use of single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) techniques to image transitions between distinct conformational states on both the extracellular and intracellular sides of the prokaryotic NSS LeuT, including partially open intermediates associated with transport activity. The nature and functional context of these hitherto unidentified intermediate states shed new light on the allosteric mechanism that couples substrate and Na+ symport by the NSS family through conformational dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Binding Sites
  • Escherichia coli
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Plasma Membrane Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Plasma Membrane Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Single Molecule Imaging
  • Sodium / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Plasma Membrane Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins
  • Sodium
  • Leucine