Fluoride channels (Flucs) export toxic F- from the cytoplasm. Crystallography and mutagenesis have identified several conserved residues crucial for fluoride transport, but the permeation mechanism at the molecular level has remained elusive. Herein, we have applied constant-pH molecular dynamics and free-energy-sampling methods to investigate fluoride permeation through a Fluc protein from Escherichia coli. We find that fluoride is facile to permeate in its charged form, i.e., F-, by traversing through a non-bonded network. The extraordinary F- selectivity is gained by the hydrogen-bonding capability of the central binding site and the Coulombic filter at the channel entrance. The F- permeation rate calculated using an electronically polarizable force field is significantly more accurate compared with the experimental value than that calculated using a more standard additive force field, suggesting an essential role for electronic polarization in the F--Fluc interactions.
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