Transmembrane Segment 12 of the Glut1 Glucose Transporter Is an Outer Helix and Is Not Directly Involved in the Transport Mechanism
A model has been proposed for the exofacial configuration of the Glut1 glucose transporter in which eight transmembrane domains form an inner helical bundle stabilized by four outer helices. The role of transmembrane segment 12, predicted to be an outer helix in this hypothetical model, was examined by cysteine-scanning mutagenesis and the substituted cysteine accessibility method using the membrane-impermeant, sulfhydryl-specific reagent, p-chloromercuribenzenesulfonate (pCMBS). A previously characterized functional cysteine-less Glut1 molecule was used to produce 21 Glut1 point mutants by changing each residue along helix 12 to a cysteine residue. These mutants were then expressed in Xenopus oocytes, and their protein levels, functional activities, and sensitivities to pCMBS were determined. Strikingly, in contrast to all nine other predicted Glut1 transmembrane helices that have been previously examined by this method, none of the 21 helix 12 single-cysteine mutants exhibited significant inhibition of specific transport activity. Also unlike most other Glut1 transmembrane domains in which solvent-accessible residues lie along a single face of the helix, mutations in five consecutive residues predicted to lie close to the exofacial face of the membrane resulted in sensitivity to pCMBS-induced transport inhibition. These results suggest that helix 12 plays a passive stabilizing role in the structure of Glut1 and is not directly involved in the transport mechanism. Additionally, the pCMBS data indicate that the predicted exoplasmic end of helix 12 is completely exposed to the external solvent when the transporter is in its exofacial configuration.
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