The ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter family contains thousands of members with diverse functions. Movement of the substrate, powered by ATP hydrolysis, can be outward (export) or inward (import). ABCA4 is a eukaryotic importer transporting retinal to the cytosol to enter the visual cycle. It also removes toxic retinoids from the disc lumen to the cytosol. Mutations in ABCA4 cause impaired vision or blindness. Despite decades of clinical, biochemical, and animal model studies, the molecular mechanism of ABCA4 is unknown. Here we report the structures of human ABCA4 in two conformations. In the absence of ATP, ABCA4 adopts an outward-facing conformation, poised to recruit substrate. The presence of ATP induces large conformational changes that could lead to substrate release. These structures provide a molecular basis to understand many disease-causing mutations and a rational guide for new experiments to uncover how ABCA4 recruits, flips, and releases retinoids.
The cryo-EM maps are deposited in the Electron Microscopy Data Bank (EMDB) under accession codes: EMD-23409, EMD-23410. The corresponding atomic models are deposited in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) under accession codes 7LKP and 7LKZ.
- Jue Chen
- James Lee
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- David Drew, Stockholm University, Sweden
© 2021, Liu et al.
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