Structures and membrane interactions of native serotonin transporter in complexes with psychostimulants

Dongxue Yang, Zhiyu Zhao, Emad Tajkhorshid, Eric Gouaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The serotonin transporter (SERT) is a member of the SLC6 neurotransmitter transporter family that mediates serotonin reuptake at presynaptic nerve terminals. SERT is the target of both therapeutic antidepressant drugs and psychostimulant substances such as cocaine and methamphetamines, which are small molecules that perturb normal serotonergic transmission by interfering with serotonin transport. Despite decades of studies, important functional aspects of SERT such as the oligomerization state of native SERT and its interactions with potential proteins remain unresolved. Here, we develop methods to isolate SERT from porcine brain (pSERT) using a mild, nonionic detergent, utilize fluorescence-detection size-exclusion chromatography to investigate its oligomerization state and interactions with other proteins, and employ single-particle cryo-electron microscopy to elucidate the structures of pSERT in complexes with methamphetamine or cocaine, providing structural insights into psychostimulant recognition and accompanying pSERT conformations. Methamphetamine and cocaine both bind to the central site, stabilizing the transporter in an outward open conformation. We also identify densities attributable to multiple cholesterol or cholesteryl hemisuccinate (CHS) molecules, as well as to a detergent molecule bound to the pSERT allosteric site. Under our conditions of isolation, we find that pSERT is best described as a monomeric entity, isolated without interacting proteins, and is ensconced by multiple cholesterol or CHS molecules.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2304602120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 18 2023


  • neurotransmitter transporter
  • cryo-EM
  • biogenic amines


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