Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : In the recent years, molecular modeling and substrate docking, coupled with biochemical and genetic analyses have identified the substrate-binding residues of several amino acid transporters of the yeast amino acid transporter (YAT) family. These consist of (a) residues conserved across YATs that interact with the invariable part of amino acid substrates and (b) variable residues that interact with the side chain of the amino acid substrate and thus define specificity. Secondary structure sequence alignments showed that the positions of these residues are conserved across YATs and could thus be used to predict the specificity of YATs. Here, we discuss the potential of combining molecular modeling and structural alignments with intra-species phylogenetic comparisons of transporters, in order to predict the function of uncharacterized members of the family. We additionally define some orphan branches which include transporters with potentially novel, and to be characterized specificities. In addition, we discuss the particular case of the highly specific L-proline transporter, PrnB, of Aspergillus nidulans, whose gene is part of a cluster of genes required for the utilization of proline as a carbon and/or nitrogen source. This clustering correlates with transcriptional regulation of these genes, potentially leading to the efficient coordination of the uptake of externally provided L-Pro via PrnB and its enzymatic degradation in the cell.