Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

Richard G. Moran


The mitochondrial folate transport protein (MFT) functions to transport folates into the mitochondrial matrix. The MFT is a member of a mitochondrial carrier family (MCF) of proteins that have a high degree of sequence and structural similarities, yet they transport vastly different substrates at high specificities. In this dissertation research, the folate-specific transport mechanism of the MFT was explored using experimental and computational techniques. MFT residues that differed from MCF consensus residues in conserved PxD/ExxK/R motifs and at a predicted substrate-binding site common to all MCF proteins were investigated. Site-directed mutagenesis of these anomalous residues in the MFT revealed that these residues were adapted for optimal folate transport, and that the MCF consensus residues at these positions were incompatible with folate transport. The structure of the MFT was predicted by homology modeling using the solved crystallographic structure of the ADP/ATP carrier as a template and this model was subjected to ~75 ns of molecular dynamics simulations. These simulations predicted a stepwise descent for the folate substrate into the MFT transport cavity and implicated several aromatic and basic residues in folate recognition and orientation. A predicted set of interactions at the base of the transport cavity between the MCF PxD/ExxK/R conserved motif residues did not appear static as previously hypothesized; these interactions appeared to be induced in the presence of the folate substrate. Therefore, we believe it is unlikely that these interactions form a barrier at the base of the transport cavity. We also investigated the role of the MFT in the compartmentalization of folate metabolism. Cell lines were created that could be induced with doxycycline to express either the cytosolic or mitochondrial isoform of the enzyme folylpoly-γ-glutamate synthetase (FPGS). The constructed cell lines were used to study the flux of folylpolyglutamates across the mitochondrial membrane. It appeared that cellular folylpolyglutamates are not transported across the mitochondrial membrane in either direction. We also demonstrated that many antifolates, including methotrexate and pemetrexed, impaired mitochondrial folate uptake. We believe that these folate analogs competitively inhibit the MFT and have purified the MFT protein for future analysis in reconstituted transport systems.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2010