Conformational state interactions provide clues to the pharmacochaperone potential of serotonin transporter partial substrates
Point mutations in SLC6 transporters cause misfolding, which can be remedied by pharmacochaperones. The serotonin transporter (SERT/SLC6A4) has a rich pharmacology including inhibitors, releasers (amphetamines, which promote the exchange mode) and more recently discovered partial substrates. We hypothesized that partial substrates trapped the transporter in one or several states of the transport cycle. This conformational trapping may also be conducive to folding. We selected napthylpropane-2-amines of the phenethylamine library (PAL) including the partial substrate PAL1045 and its congeners PAL287 and PAL1046. We analyzed their impact on the transport cycle of SERT by biochemical approaches and by electrophysiological recordings: substrate-induced peak currents and steady-state currents monitored the translocation of substrate and co-substrate Na+ across the lipid bilayer and the transport cycle, respectively. These experiments showed that PAL1045 and its congeners bound with different affinities (ranging from nM to μM) to various conformational intermediates of SERT during the transport cycle. Consistent with the working hypothesis, PAL1045 was the most efficacious compound in restoring surface expression and transport activity to the folding-deficient mutant SERT-601PG602-AA. These experiments provide a proof-of-principle for a rational search for pharmacochaperones, which may be useful to restore function to clinically relevant folding-deficient transporter mutants.