A proton-coupled folate transporter mutation causing hereditary folate malabsorption locks the protein in an inward-open conformation

J Biol Chem. 2020 Nov 13;295(46):15650-15661. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA120.014757. Epub 2020 Sep 6.


The proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT, SLC46A1) is required for folate intestinal absorption and transport across the choroid plexus. Recent work has identified a F392V mutation causing hereditary folate malabsorption. However, the residue properties responsible for this loss of function remains unknown. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we observed complete loss of function with charged (Lys, Asp, and Glu) and polar (Thr, Ser, and Gln) Phe-392 substitutions and minimal function with some neutral substitutions; however, F392M retained full function. Using the substituted-cysteine accessibility method (with N-biotinyl aminoethyl methanethiosulfonate labeling), Phe-392 mutations causing loss of function, although preserving membrane expression and trafficking, also resulted in loss of accessibility of the substituted cysteine in P314C-PCFT located within the aqueous translocation pathway. F392V function and accessibility of the P314C cysteine were restored by insertion of a G305L (suppressor) mutation. A S196L mutation localized in proximity to Gly-305 by homology modeling was inactive. However, when inserted into the inactive F392V scaffold, function was restored (mutually compensatory mutations), as was accessibility of the P314C cysteine residue. Reduced function, documented with F392H PCFT, was due to a 15-fold decrease in methotrexate influx Vmax, accompanied by a decreased influx Kt (4.5-fold) and Ki (3-fold). The data indicate that Phe-392 is required for rapid oscillation of the carrier among its conformational states and suggest that this is achieved by dampening affinity of the protein for its folate substrates. F392V and other inactivating Phe-392 PCFT mutations lock the protein in its inward-open conformation. Reach (length) and hydrophobicity of Phe-392 appear to be features required for full activity.

Keywords: PCFT; SLC46A1; facilitative transporters; folate; hereditary folate malabsorption (HFM); homology modeling; methotrexate; mutant; mutually compensatory mutations; proton transport; proton-coupled folate transporter; reduced folate carrier; suppressor mutations; transporter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / pathology
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / pathology
  • Methotrexate / metabolism
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proton-Coupled Folate Transporter / chemistry
  • Proton-Coupled Folate Transporter / genetics
  • Proton-Coupled Folate Transporter / metabolism*


  • Proton-Coupled Folate Transporter
  • SLC46A1 protein, human
  • Cysteine
  • Methotrexate

Supplementary concepts

  • Folate Malabsorption, Hereditary