Ligand Induced Conformational Changes of the Human Serotonin Transporter Revealed by Molecular Dynamics Simulations


The competitive inhibitor cocaine and the non-competitive inhibitor ibogaine induce different conformational states of the human serotonin transporter. It has been shown from accessibility experiments that cocaine mainly induces an outward-facing conformation, while the non-competitive inhibitor ibogaine, and its active metabolite noribogaine, have been proposed to induce an inward-facing conformation of the human serotonin transporter similar to what has been observed for the endogenous substrate, serotonin. The ligand induced conformational changes within the human serotonin transporter caused by these three different types of ligands, substrate, non-competitive and competitive inhibitors, are studied from multiple atomistic molecular dynamics simulations initiated from a homology model of the human serotonin transporter. The results reveal that diverse conformations of the human serotonin transporter are captured from the molecular dynamics simulations depending on the type of the ligand bound. The inward-facing conformation of the human serotonin transporter is reached with noribogaine bound, and this state resembles a previously identified inward-facing conformation of the human serotonin transporter obtained from molecular dynamics simulation with bound substrate, but also a recently published inward-facing conformation of a bacterial homolog, the leucine transporter from Aquifex Aoelicus. The differences observed in ligand induced behavior are found to originate from different interaction patterns between the ligands and the protein. Such atomic-level understanding of how an inhibitor can dictate the conformational response of a transporter by ligand binding may be of great importance for future drug design.



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