Structure and mechanism of the Mrp complex, an ancient cation/proton antiporter

  1. Julia Steiner
  2. Leonid Sazanov  Is a corresponding author
  1. Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Austria


Multiple resistance and pH adaptation (Mrp) antiporters are multi-subunit Na+ (or K+)/H+ exchangers representing an ancestor of many essential redox-driven proton pumps, such as respiratory complex I. The mechanism of coupling between ion or electron transfer and proton translocation in this large protein family is unknown. Here, we present the structure of the Mrp complex from Anoxybacillus flavithermus solved by cryo-EM at 3.0 Å resolution. It is a dimer of seven-subunit protomers with 50 trans-membrane helices each. Surface charge distribution within each monomer is remarkably asymmetric, revealing probable proton and sodium translocation pathways. On the basis of the structure we propose a mechanism where the coupling between sodium and proton translocation is facilitated by a series of electrostatic interactions between a cation and key charged residues. This mechanism is likely to be applicable to the entire family of redox proton pumps, where electron transfer to substrates replaces cation movements.

Data availability

Structure of the Mrp dimer is deposited in PDB with PDB ID 6Z16, with corresponding cryo-EM density maps in EMDB (EMD-11027).

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Julia Steiner

    Life Sciences, Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Klosterneuburg, Austria
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Leonid Sazanov

    Life Sciences, Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Klosterneuburg, Austria
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-0977-7989


Austrian Academy of Sciences (DOC fellowship)

  • Julia Steiner

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Sriram Subramaniam, University of British Columbia, Canada

Version history

  1. Received: May 28, 2020
  2. Accepted: July 30, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: July 31, 2020 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: August 11, 2020 (version 2)


© 2020, Steiner & Sazanov

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


  • 3,268
    Page views
  • 548
  • 25

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, PubMed Central, Scopus.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Cite this article (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

  1. Julia Steiner
  2. Leonid Sazanov
Structure and mechanism of the Mrp complex, an ancient cation/proton antiporter
eLife 9:e59407.

Further reading

    1. Cell Biology
    2. Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics
    Bronwyn A Lucas, Benjamin A Himes, Nikolaus Grigorieff
    Research Advance

    Previously we showed that 2D template matching (2DTM) can be used to localize macromolecular complexes in images recorded by cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) with high precision, even in the presence of noise and cellular background (Lucas et al., 2021; Lucas et al., 2022). Here, we show that once localized, these particles may be averaged together to generate high-resolution 3D reconstructions. However, regions included in the template may suffer from template bias, leading to inflated resolution estimates and making the interpretation of high-resolution features unreliable. We evaluate conditions that minimize template bias while retaining the benefits of high-precision localization, and we show that molecular features not present in the template can be reconstructed at high resolution from targets found by 2DTM, extending prior work at low-resolution. Moreover, we present a quantitative metric for template bias to aid the interpretation of 3D reconstructions calculated with particles localized using high-resolution templates and fine angular sampling.

    1. Plant Biology
    2. Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics
    Jinping Lu, Ingo Dreyer ... Rainer Hedrich
    Research Article

    To fire action-potential-like electrical signals, the vacuole membrane requires the two-pore channel TPC1, formerly called SV channel. The TPC1/SV channel functions as a depolarization-stimulated, non-selective cation channel that is inhibited by luminal Ca2+. In our search for species-dependent functional TPC1 channel variants with different luminal Ca2+ sensitivity, we found in total three acidic residues present in Ca2+ sensor sites 2 and 3 of the Ca2+-sensitive AtTPC1 channel from Arabidopsis thaliana that were neutral in its Vicia faba ortholog and also in those of many other Fabaceae. When expressed in the Arabidopsis AtTPC1-loss-of-function background, wild-type VfTPC1 was hypersensitive to vacuole depolarization and only weakly sensitive to blocking luminal Ca2+. When AtTPC1 was mutated for these VfTPC1-homologous polymorphic residues, two neutral substitutions in Ca2+ sensor site 3 alone were already sufficient for the Arabidopsis At-VfTPC1 channel mutant to gain VfTPC1-like voltage and luminal Ca2+ sensitivity that together rendered vacuoles hyperexcitable. Thus, natural TPC1 channel variants exist in plant families which may fine-tune vacuole excitability and adapt it to environmental settings of the particular ecological niche.