The chloride ion channel cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) displays a typical adenosine trisphosphate (ATP)-binding cassette (ABC) protein architecture comprising two transmembrane domains, two intracellular nucleotide-binding domains (NBDs), and a unique intracellular regulatory domain. Once phosphorylated in the regulatory domain, CFTR channels can open and close when supplied with cytosolic ATR Despite the general agreement that formation of a head-to-tail NBD dimer drives the opening of the chloride ion pore, little is known about how ATP binding to individual NBDs promotes subsequent formation of this stable dimer. Structural studies on isolated NBDs suggest that ATP binding induces an intra-domain conformational change termed "induced fit," which is required for subsequent dimerization. We investigated the allosteric interaction between three residues within NBD2 of CFTR, F1296, N1303, and R1358, because statistical coupling analysis suggests coevolution of these positions, and because in crystal structures of ABC domains, interactions between these positions appear to be modulated by ATP binding. We expressed wild-type as well as F1296S, N1303Q, and R1358A mutant CFTR in Xenopus oocytes and studied these channels using macroscopic inside-out patch recordings. Thermodynamic mutant cycles were built on several kinetic parameters that characterize individual steps in the gating cycle, such as apparent affinities for ATP, open probabilities in the absence of ATP, open probabilities in saturating ATP in a mutant background (K1250R), which precludes ATP hydrolysis, as well as the rates of nonhydrolytic closure. Our results suggest state-dependent changes in coupling between two of the three positions (1296 and 1303) and are consistent with a model that assumes a toggle switch-like interaction pattern during the intra-NBD2 induced fit in response to ATP binding. Stabilizing interactions of F1296 and N1303 present before ATP binding are replaced by a single F1296-N1303 contact in ATP-bound states, with similar interaction partner toggling occurring during the much rarer ATP-independent spontaneous openings.
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