Inhibitor mechanisms in the S1 binding site of the dopamine transporter defined by multi-site molecular tethering of photoactive cocaine analogs
Dopamine transporter (DAT) blockers like cocaine and many other abused and therapeutic drugs bind and stabilize an inactive form of the transporter inhibiting reuptake of extracellular dopamine (DA). The resulting increases in DA lead to the ability of these drugs to induce psychomotor alterations and addiction, but paradoxical findings in animal models indicate that not all DAT antagonists induce cocaine-like behavioral outcomes. How this occurs is not known, but one possibility is that uptake inhibitors may bind at multiple locations or in different poses to stabilize distinct conformational transporter states associated with differential neurochemical endpoints. Understanding the molecular mechanisms governing the pharmacological inhibition of DAT is therefore key for understanding the requisite interactions for behavioral modulation and addiction. Previously, we leveraged complementary computational docking, mutagenesis, peptide mapping, and substituted cysteine accessibility strategies to identify the specific adduction site and binding pose for the crosslinkable, photoactive cocaine analog, RTI 82, which contains a photoactive azide attached at the 2β position of the tropane pharmacophore. Here, we utilize similar methodology with a different cocaine analog N-[4-(4-azido-3-I-iodophenyl)-butyl]-2-carbomethoxy-3-(4-chlorophenyl)tropane, MFZ 2–24, where the photoactive azide is attached to the tropane nitrogen. In contrast to RTI 82, which crosslinked into residue Phe319 of transmembrane domain (TM) 6, our findings show that MFZ 2–24 adducts to Leu80 in TM1 with modeling and biochemical data indicating that MFZ 2–24, like RTI 82, occupies the central S1 binding pocket with the (+)-charged tropane ring nitrogen coordinating with the (−)-charged carboxyl side chain of Asp79. The superimposition of the tropane ring in the three-dimensional binding poses of these two distinct ligands provides strong experimental evidence for cocaine binding to DAT in the S1 site and the importance of the tropane moiety in competitive mechanisms of DA uptake inhibition. These findings set a structure-function baseline for comparison of typical and atypical DAT inhibitors and how their interactions with DAT could lead to the loss of cocaine-like behaviors.