Structural biology of solute carrier (SLC) membrane transport proteins

Mol Membr Biol. Feb-Mar 2017;34(1-2):1-32. doi: 10.1080/09687688.2018.1448123. Epub 2018 Apr 13.


The human solute carriers (SLCs) comprise over 400 different transporters, organized into 65 families ( ) based on their sequence homology and transport function. SLCs are responsible for transporting extraordinarily diverse solutes across biological membranes, including inorganic ions, amino acids, lipids, sugars, neurotransmitters and drugs. Most of these membrane proteins function as coupled symporters (co-transporters) utilizing downhill ion (H+ or Na+) gradients as the driving force for the transport of substrate against its concentration gradient into cells. Other members work as antiporters (exchangers) that typically contain a single substrate-binding site with an alternating access mode of transport, while a few members exhibit channel-like properties. Dysfunction of SLCs is correlated with numerous human diseases and therefore they are potential therapeutic drug targets. In this review, we identified all of the SLC crystal structures that have been determined, most of which are from prokaryotic species. We further sorted all the SLC structures into four main groups with different protein folds and further discuss the well-characterized MFS (major facilitator superfamily) and LeuT (leucine transporter) folds. This review provides a systematic analysis of the structure, molecular basis of substrate recognition and mechanism of action in different SLC family members.

Keywords: SLC family; human disease; membrane proteins; protein folds; solute carrier; transporters.