The study of biological transporters can be hampered by a dearth of methodology for tracking their activity within cells. Here, we present a means of monitoring the function of transport machinery within bacteria, exploiting a genetically encoded riboswitch-based sensor to detect the accumulation of the substrate in the cytoplasm. This method was used to investigate the model ABC transporter BtuC2D2F, which permits vitamin B12 uptake in Escherichia coli. We exploited the wealth of structural data available for this transporter to probe the functional and mechanistic importance of key residues of the substrate binding protein BtuF that are predicted to support its interaction with its substrate or with the BtuC channel-forming subunits. Our results reveal molecular interaction requirements for substrate binding proteins and demonstrate the utility of riboswitch-based sensors in the study of biological transport.


Fowler CC, Sugiman-Marangos S, Junop MS, Brown ED, Li Y.


Chem Biol. 2013 Dec 19;20(12):1502-12. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2013.10.014. Epub 2013 Nov 27.