Background: The mammalian neurotransmitter transporters are complex proteins playing a central role in synaptic transmission between neurons by rapid reuptake of neurotransmitters. The proteins which transport dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin belong to the Neurotransmitter:Sodium Symporters (NSS). Due to their important role, dysfunctions are associated with several psychiatric and neurological diseases and they also serve as targets for a wide range of therapeutic and illicit drugs. Despite the central physiological and pharmacological importance, direct evidence on structure–function relationships on mammalian NSS proteins has so far been unsuccessful. The crystal structure of the bacterial NSS protein, LeuT, has been a turning point in structural investigations. Scope of review: To provide an update on what is known about the binding sites for substrates and inhibitors in the LeuT. The different binding modes and binding sites will be discussed with special emphasis on the possible existence of a second substrate binding site. It is the goal to give an insight into how investigations on ligand binding in LeuT have provided basic knowledge about transporter conformations and translocation mechanism which can pave the road for a deeper understanding of drug binding and function of the mammalian transporters. Major conclusions: The LeuT is a suitable model for the structural investigation of NSS proteins including the possible location of drug binding sites. It is still debated whether the LeuT is a suitable model for the molecular mechanisms behind substrate translocation. General significance: Structure and functional aspects of NSS proteins are central for understanding synaptic transmission. With the purification and crystallization of LeuT as well as the dopamine transporter from Drosophila melanogaster, the application of biophysical methods such as fluorescence spectroscopy, neutron- or x-ray scattering and NMR for understanding its function becomes increasingly available. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Structural biochemistry and biophysics of membrane proteins.
Journal review article
Bba General Subjects, 2015, Vol 1850, Issue 3, p. 500-510