Mutational Analysis of the High-Affinity Zinc Binding Site Validates a Refined Human Dopamine Transporter Homology Model
The high-resolution crystal structure of the leucine transporter (LeuT) is frequently used as a template for homology models of the dopamine transporter (DAT). Although similar in structure, DAT differs considerably from LeuT in a number of ways: (i) when compared to LeuT, DAT has very long intracellular amino and carboxyl termini; (ii) LeuT and DAT share a rather low overall sequence identity (22%) and (iii) the extracellular loop 2 (EL2) of DAT is substantially longer than that of LeuT. Extracellular zinc binds to DAT and restricts the transporter‚s movement through the conformational cycle, thereby resulting in a decrease in substrate uptake. Residue H293 in EL2 praticipates in zinc binding and must be modelled correctly to allow for a full understanding of its effects. We exploited the high-affinity zinc binding site endogenously present in DAT to create a model of the complete transmemberane domain of DAT. The zinc binding site provided a DAT-specific molecular ruler for calibration of the model. Our DAT model places EL2 at the transporter lipid interface in the vicinity of the zinc binding site. Based on the model, D206 was predicted to represent a fourth co-ordinating residue, in addition to the three previously described zinc binding residues H193, H375 and E396. This prediction was confirmed by mutagenesis: substitution of D206 by lysine and cysteine affected the inhibitory potency of zinc and the maximum inhibition exerted by zinc, respectively. Conversely, the structural changes observed in the model allowed for rationalizing the zinc-dependent regulation of DAT: upon binding, zinc stabilizes the outward-facing state, because its first coordination shell can only be completed in this conformation. Thus, the model provides a validated solution to the long extracellular loop and may be useful to address other aspects of the transport cycle. The dopamine transporter (DAT) regulates dopaminergic neurotransmission in the brain and is implicated in numerous human disease states. DAT is unique among the monoamine neurotransmitter transporter family because its substrate transport is inhibited by extracellular zinc. DAT homology models rely upon the crystal structure of LeuT solved in 2005. LeuT and DAT share a relatively low overall sequence identity of 22%. In addition, the length of the second extracellular loop of DAT exceeds that of LeuT by 21 residues. The zinc binding site cannot be directly modeled from the LeuT template alone because of these differences. Current available homology models of DAT focused on substrate or inhibitor binding rather than on the second extracellular loop. We exploited the specificity of the zinc binding site to build and calibrate a DAT homology model of the complete transmembrane domain. Our model predicted that the zinc binding site in DAT consists of four zinc co-ordinating residues rather than three that had been previously identified. We verified this hypothesis by site-directed mutagenesis and uptake inhibition studies.