The two-domain elevator-type mechanism of zinc-transporting ZIP proteins

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Zinc is essential for all organisms and yet detrimental at elevated levels. Hence, homeostasis of this metal is tightly regulated. The Zrt/Irt-like proteins (ZIPs) represent the only zinc importers in metazoans. Mutations in human ZIPs cause serious disorders, but the mechanism by which ZIPs transfer zinc remains elusive. Hitherto, structural information is only available for a model member, BbZIP, and as a single, ion-bound conformation, precluding mechanistic insights. Here, we elucidate an inward-open metal-free BbZIP structure, differing substantially in the relative positions of the two separate domains of ZIPs. With accompanying coevolutional analyses, mutagenesis, and uptake assays, the data point to an elevator-type transport mechanism, likely shared within the ZIP family, unifying earlier functional data. Moreover, the structure reveals a previously unknown ninth transmembrane segment that is important for activity in vivo. Our findings outline the mechanistic principles governing ZIP-protein transport and enhance the molecular understanding of ZIP-related disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4331
JournalScience Advances
Issue number28
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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