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Low affinity membrane transporters can increase net substrate uptake rate by reducing efflux

By Evert Bosdriesz, Meike T. Wortel, Jurgen R Haanstra, Marijke J. Wagner, Pilar de la Torre Cort├ęs, Bas Teusink

Posted 02 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/213140 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-23528-7)

Cells require membrane-located transporter proteins to import nutrients from the environment. Many organisms have several similar transporters for the same nutrient, which differ in their affinity. Typically, high affinity transporters are expressed when substrate is scarce and low affinity ones when substrate is more abundant. The benefit of using low affinity transporters when high affinity ones are available has so far remained unclear. Here, we investigate two hypotheses. First, it was previously hypothesized that a trade-off between the affinity and the maximal catalytic rate explains this phenomenon. We find some theoretical and experimental support for this hypothesis, but no conclusive evidence. Secondly, we propose a new hypothesis: for uptake by facilitated diffusion, at saturating extracellular substrate concentrations, lowering the affinity enhances the net uptake rate by reducing the substrate efflux rate. As a consequence, there exists an optimal, external substrate concentration dependent transporter affinity. An in silico analysis of glycolysis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae shows that using the low affinity HXT3 transporter instead of the high affinity HXT6 enhances the steady-state flux by 36%. We tried to test this hypothesis using yeast strains expressing a single glucose transporter that was modified to have either a high or a low affinity. Due to the intimate and reciprocal link between glucose perception and metabolism, direct experimental proof for this hypothesis remained inconclusive in our hands. Still, our theoretical results provide a novel reason for the presence of low affinity transport systems which might have more general implications for enzyme catalyzed conversions.

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