Fluoride Action Network


The fluoride export protein (FEX) in yeast and other fungi provides tolerance to fluoride (F-), an environmentally ubiquitous anion. FEX efficiently eliminates intracellular fluoride that otherwise would accumulate at toxic concentrations. The FEX homolog in bacteria, Fluc, is a ‘double-barreled’ channel formed by dimerization of two identical or similar subunits. FEX in yeast and other eukaryotes is a monomer resulting from covalent fusion of the two subunits. As a result, both potential fluoride pores are created from different parts of the same protein. Here we identify FEX proteins from two multicellular eukaryotes, a plant Arabidopsis thaliana and an animal Amphimedon queenslandica, by demonstrating significant fluoride tolerance when these proteins are heterologously expressed in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Residues important for eukaryotic FEX function were determined by phylogenetic sequence alignment and functional analysis using a yeast growth assay. Key residues of the fluoride channel are conserved in only one of the two potential fluoride-transporting pores. FEX activity is abolished upon mutation of residues in this conserved pore, suggesting that only one of the pores is functional. The same topology is conserved for the newly identified FEX proteins from plant and animal. These data suggest that FEX family of fluoride channels in eukaryotes are ‘single-barreled’ transporters containing one functional pore and a second non-functional vestigial remnant of a homologous gene fusion event.