Each nucleotide-binding domain (NBD) of mammalian P-glycoproteins (Pgps) and human ATP-binding cassette (ABC) B subfamily members contains a tyrosine residue ∼25 residues upstream of the Walker A domain. To assess the role of the conserved Y401 and Y1044 residues of human Pgp, we substituted these residues with F, W, C, or A either singly or together. The mutant proteins were expressed in a Vaccinia virus-based transient expression system as well as in baculovirus-infected HighFive insect cells. The Y401F, Y401W, Y1044F, Y1044W, or Y401F/Y1004F mutants transported fluorescent substrates similar to the wild-type protein. On the other hand, Y401L and Y401C exhibited partial (30-50%) function, and transport was completely abolished in Y401 A, Y1044A, and Y401A/Y1044A mutant Pgps. Similarly, in Y401A, Y1044A, and Y401A/Y1044A mutants, TNP-ATP binding, vanadate-induced trapping of nucleotide, and ATP hydrolysis were completely abolished. Thus, an aromatic residue upstream of the Walker A motif in ABC transporters is critical for binding of ATP. Additionally, the crystal structures of several NBDs in the nucleotide-bound form, data mining, and alignment of 18 514 ABC domains with the consensus conserved sequence in a database of all nonredundant proteins indicate that an aromatic residue is highly conserved in ∼85% of ABC proteins. Although the role of this aromatic residue has previously been studied in a few ABC proteins, we provide evidence for a near-universal structural and functional role for this residue and recognize its presence as a conserved subdomain ∼25 amino acids upstream of the Walker A motif that is critical for ATP binding. We named this subdomain the "A-loop" (aromatic residue interacting with the adenine ring of ATP).
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