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A short update on the structure of drug binding sites on neurotransmitter transporters

Mari Gabrielsen, Ingebrigt Sylte, Svein G Dahl and Aina W Ravna*

Author Affiliations

Medical Pharmacology and Toxicology Research Group, Department of Medical Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø, Norway

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:559  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-559

Published: 22 December 2011



The dopamine (DAT), noradrenalin (NET) and serotonin (SERT) transporters are molecular targets for different classes of psychotropic drugs. Cocaine and the SSRI (S)-citalopram block neurotransmitter reuptake competitively, but while cocaine is a non-selective reuptake inhibitor, (S)-citalopram is a selective SERT inhibitor.


Here we present comparisons of the binding sites and the electrostatic potential surfaces (EPS) of DAT, NET and SERT homology models based on two different LeuTAa templates; with a substrate (leucine) in an occluded conformation (PDB id 2a65), and with an inhibitor (tryptophan) in an open-to-out conformation (PDB id 3f3a). In the occluded homology models, two conserved aromatic amino acids (tyrosine and phenylalanine) formed a gate between the putative binding pockets, and this contact was interrupted in the open to out conformation. The EPS of DAT and NET were generally negative in the vestibular area, whereas the EPS of the vestibular area of SERT was more neutral.


The findings presented here contribute as an update on the structure of the binding sites of DAT, NET and SERT. The updated models, which have larger ligand binding site areas than models based on other templates, may serve as improved tools for virtual ligand screening.