Mornon, Jean-Paul; Hoffmann, Brice; Jonic, Slavica; Lehn, Pierre; Callebaut, Isabelle
Full-open and closed CFTR channels, with lateral tunnels from the cytoplasm and an alternative position of the F508 region, as revealed by molecular dynamics

In absence of experimental 3D structures, several homology models, based on ABC exporter 3D structures, have provided significant insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the function of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein, a chloride channel whose defects are associated with cystic fibrosis (CF). Until now, these models, however, did not furnished much insights into the continuous way that ions could follow from the cytosol to the extracellular milieu in the open form of the channel. Here, we have built a refined model of CFTR, based on the outward-facing Sav1866 experimental 3D structure and integrating the evolutionary and structural information available today. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed significant conformational changes, resulting in a full-open channel, accessible from the cytosol through lateral tunnels displayed in the long intracellular loops (ICLs). At the same time, the region of nucleotide-binding domain 1 in contact with one of the ICLs and carrying amino acid F508, the deletion of which is the most common CF-causing mutation, was found to adopt an alternative but stable position. Then, in a second step, this first stable full-open conformation evolved toward another stable state, in which only a limited displacement of the upper part of the transmembrane helices leads to a closure of the channel, in a conformation very close to that adopted by the Atm1 ABC exporter, in an inward-facing conformation. These models, supported by experimental data, provide significant new insights into the CFTR structure-function relationships and into the possible impact of CF-causing mutations.


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