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The Escherichia coli UraA H+-uracil symporter is a member of the nucleobase/ascorbate transporter (NAT) family of proteins, and is responsible for the proton-driven uptake of uracil. Multiscale molecular dynamics simulations of the UraA symporter in phospholipid bilayers consisting of: 1) 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine (POPC); 2) 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl-phosphatidylethanolamine (POPE); and 3) a mixture of 75% POPE, 20% 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl-phosphatidylglycerol (POPG); and 5% 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl-diphosphatidylglycerol/cardiolipin (CL) to mimic the lipid composition of the bacterial inner membrane, were performed using the MARTINI coarse-grained force field to self-assemble lipids around the crystal structure of this membrane transport protein, followed by atomistic simulations. The overall fold of the protein in lipid bilayers remained similar to the crystal structure in detergent on the timescale of our simulations. Simulations were performed in the absence of uracil, and resulted in a closed state of the transporter, due to relative movement of the gate and core domains. Anionic lipids, including POPG and especially CL, were found to associate with UraA, involving interactions between specific basic residues in loop regions and phosphate oxygens of the CL head group. In particular, three CL binding sites were identified on UraA: two in the inner leaflet and a single site in the outer leaflet. Mutation of basic residues in the binding sites resulted in the loss of CL binding in the simulations. CL may play a role as a "proton trap" that channels protons to and from this transporter within CL-enriched areas of the inner bacterial membrane.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS Comput Biol

Publication Date





Amino Acid Sequence, Cardiolipins, Escherichia coli Proteins, Lipid Bilayers, Membrane Transport Proteins, Molecular Dynamics Simulation, Molecular Sequence Data