In this work we unmask a novel downregulation mechanism of the uric acid/xanthine transporter UapA, the prototype member of the ubiquitous Nucleobase-Ascorbate Transporter family, directly related to its function. In the presence of substrates, UapA is endocytosed, sorted into the multivesicular body pathway and degraded in vacuoles. Substrate-induced endocytosis, unlike ammonium-induced turnover, is absolutely dependent on UapA activity and several lines of evidence showed that the signal for increased endocytosis is the actual translocation of substrates through the UapA protein. The use of several UapA functional mutants with altered kinetics and specificity has further shown that transport-dependent UapA endocytosis occurs through a mechanism, which senses subtle conformational changes associated with the transport cycle. We also show that distinct mechanisms of UapA endocytosis necessitate ubiquitination of a single Lys residue (K572) by HulA(Rsp5). Finally, we demonstrate that in the presence of substrates, non-functional UapA versions can be endocytosed in trans if expressed in the simultaneous presence of active UapA versions, even if the latter cannot be endocytosed themselves.
The recent breakthrough discoveries of transport systems assigned with atypical functions provide evidence for complexity in membrane transport biochemistry. Some channels are far from being simple pores creating hydrophilic passages for solutes and can, unexpectedly, act as enzymes, or mediate high-affinity uptake, and some transporters are surprisingly able to function as sensors, channels or even enzymes. Furthermore, numerous transport studies have demonstrated complex multiphasic uptake kinetics for organic and mineral nutrients. The biphasic kinetics of glucose uptake in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a result of several genetically distinct uptake systems operating simultaneously, is a classical example that is a subject of continuous debate. In contrast, some transporters display biphasic kinetics, being bona fidae dual-affinity transporters, their kinetic properties often modulated by post-translational regulation. Also, aquaporins have recently been reported to exhibit diverse transport properties and can behave as highly adapted, multifunctional channels, transporting solutes such as CO(2), hydrogen peroxide, urea, ammonia, glycerol, polyols, carbamides, purines and pyrimidines, metalloids, glycine, and lactic acid, rather than being simple water pores. The present review provides an overview on some atypical functions displayed by transporter proteins and discusses how this novel knowledge on cellular uptake systems may be related to complex multiphasic uptake kinetics often seen in a wide variety of living organisms and the intriguing diffusive uptake of sugars and other solutes.
In the UapA uric acid-xanthine permease of Aspergillus nidulans, subtle interactions between key residues of the putative substrate binding pocket, located in the TMS8-TMS9 loop (where TMS is transmembrane segment), and a specificity filter, implicating residues in TMS12 and the TMS1-TMS2 loop, are critical for function and specificity. By using a strain lacking all transporters involved in adenine uptake (DeltaazgA DeltafcyB DeltauapC) and carrying a mutation that partially inactivates the UapA specificity filter (F528S), we obtained 28 mutants capable of UapA-mediated growth on adenine. Seventy-two percent of mutants concern replacements of a single residue, R481, in the putative cytoplasmic loop TMS10-TMS11. Five missense mutations are located in TMS9, in TMS10 or in loops TMS1-TMS2 and TMS8-TMS9. Mutations in the latter loops concern residues previously shown to enlarge UapA specificity (Q113L) or to be part of a motif involved in substrate binding (F406Y). In all mutants, the ability of UapA to transport its physiological substrates remains intact, whereas the increased capacity for transport of adenine and other purines seems to be due to the elimination of elements that hinder the translocation of non-physiological substrates through UapA, rather than to an increase in relevant binding affinities. The additive effects of most novel mutations with F528S and allele-specific interactions of mutation R481G (TMS10-TMS11 loop) with Q113L (TMS1-TMS2 loop) or T526M (TMS12) establish specific interdomain synergy as a critical determinant for substrate selection. Our results strongly suggest that distinct domains at both sides of UapA act as selective dynamic gates controlling substrate access to their translocation pathway.