Specific residues in a purine transporter are critical for dimerization, ER exit, and function

Anezia Kourkoulou, Pothos Grevias, George Lambrinidis, Euan Pyle, Mariangela Dionysopoulou, Argyris Politis, Emmanuel Mikros, Bernadette Byrne, George Diallinas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Transporters are transmembrane proteins that mediate the selective translocation of solutes across biological membranes. Recently, we have shown that specific interactions with plasma membrane phospholipids are essential for the formation and/or stability of functional dimers of the purine transporter UapA, a prototypic eukaryotic member of the ubiquitous nucleobase ascorbate transporter (NAT) family. Here, we provide strong evidence that distinct interactions of UapA with membrane lipids are essential for ab initio formation of functional dimers in the ER, or ER exit and further subcellular trafficking. Through genetic screens, we identify mutations that restore defects in dimer formation and/or trafficking. Suppressors of defective dimerization restore ab initio formation of UapA dimers in the ER. Most of these suppressors are located in the movable core domain, but also in the core-dimerization interface and in residues of the dimerization domain exposed to lipids. Molecular dynamics suggest that the majority of suppressors stabilize interhelical interactions in the core domain and thus assist the formation of functional UapA dimers. Among suppressors restoring dimerization, a specific mutation, T401P, was also isolated independently as a suppressor restoring trafficking, suggesting that stabilization of the core domain restores function by sustaining structural defects caused by the abolishment of essential interactions with specific lipids. Importantly, the introduction of mutations topologically equivalent to T401P into a rat homolog of UapA, namely rSNBT1, permitted the functional expression of a mammalian NAT in Aspergillus nidulans. Thus, our results provide a potential route for the functional expression and manipulation of mammalian transporters in the model Aspergillus system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1357-1372
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Aspergillus nidulans
  • NAT
  • Nucleobase
  • RSNBT1
  • UapA


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