Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, ubiquitous proteins found in all kingdoms of life, catalyze substrates translocation across biological membranes using the free energy of ATP hydrolysis. Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is a unique member of this superfamily in that it functions as an ATP-gated chloride channel. Despite difference in function, recent studies suggest that the CFTR chloride channel and the exporter members of the ABC protein family may share an evolutionary origin. Although ABC exporters harness the free energy of ATP hydrolysis to fuel a transport cycle, for CFTR, ATP-induced dimerization of its nucleotide-binding domains (NBDs) and subsequent hydrolysis-triggered dimer separation are proposed to be coupled, respectively, to the opening and closing of the gate in its transmembrane domains. In this study, by using nonhydrolyzable ATP analogues, such as pyrophosphate or adenylyl-imidodiphosphate as baits, we captured a short-lived state (state X), which distinguishes itself from the previously identified long-lived C2 closed state by its fast response to these nonhydrolyzable ligands. As state X is caught during the decay phase of channel closing upon washout of the ligand ATP but before the channel sojourns to the C2 closed state, it likely emerges after the bound ATP in the catalysis-competent site has been hydrolyzed and the hydrolytic products have been released. Thus, this newly identified post-hydrolytic state may share a similar conformation of NBDs as the C2 closed state (i.e., a partially separated NBD and a vacated ATP-binding pocket). The significance of this novel state in understanding the structural basis of CFTR gating is discussed.
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