A motif of eleven amino acids is a structural adaptation that facilitates motor capability of eutherian prestin

Xiaodong Tan, Jason L. Pecka, Jie Tang, SáNdor Lovas, Kirk W. Beisel*, David Z Z He

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Cochlear outer hair cells (OHCs) alter their length in response to transmembrane voltage changes. This so-called electromotility is the result of conformational changes of membrane-bound prestin. Prestin-based OHC motility is thought to be responsible for cochlear amplification, which contributes to the exquisite frequency selectivity and sensitivity of mammalian hearing. Prestin belongs to an anion transporter family, the solute carrier protein 26A (SLC26A). Prestin is unique in this family in that it functions as a voltage-dependent motor protein manifested by two hallmarks, nonlinear capacitance and motility. Evidence suggests that prestin orthologs from zebrafish and chicken are anion exchangers or transporters with no motor function. We identified a segment of 11 amino acid residues in eutherian prestin that is extremely conserved among eutherian species but highly variable among non-mammalian orthologs and SLC26A paralogs. To determine whether this sequence represents a motif that facilitates motor function in eutherian prestin, we utilized a chimeric approach by swapping corresponding residues from the zebrafish and chicken with those of gerbil. Motility and nonlinear capacitance were measured from chimeric prestin-transfected human embryonic kidney 293 cells using a voltage-clamp technique and photodiode-based displacement measurement system. We observed a gain of motor function with both of the hallmarks in the chimeric prestin without loss of transport function. Our results show, for the first time, that the substitution of a span of 11 amino acid residues confers the electrogenic anion transporters of zebrafish and chicken prestins with motor-like function. Thus, this motif represents the structural adaptation that assists gain of motor function in eutherian prestin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1039-1047
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of cell science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2012


  • Electromotility
  • Evolution
  • Prestin
  • Protein motif
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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