Structural and molecular basis of choline uptake into the brain by FLVCR2

Rosemary J. Cater, Dibyanti Mukherjee, Eva Gil Iturbe, Satchal K. Erramilli, Ting Chen, Katie Koo, Nicolás Santander Grez, Andrew Reckers, Brian Kloss, Tomasz Gawda, Brendon C. Choy, Zhening Zheng, Oliver B. Clarke, Sook Wah Yee, Anthony A. Kossiakoff, Matthias Quick, Thomas Arnold, Filippo Mancia

bioRxiv. 2023 Oct 5:2023.10.05.561059.

PMID: 37873173 PMCID: PMC10592973 DOI: 10.1101/2023.10.05.561059

Choline is an essential nutrient that the human body needs in vast quantities for cell membrane synthesis, epigenetic modification, and neurotransmission. The brain has a particularly high demand for choline, but how it enters the brain has eluded the field for over fifty years. The MFS transporter FLVCR1 was recently determined to be a choline transporter, and while this protein is not highly expressed at the blood-brain barrier (BBB), its relative FLVCR2 is. Previous studies have shown that mutations in human Flvcr2 cause cerebral vascular abnormalities, hydrocephalus, and embryonic lethality, but the physiological role of FLVCR2 is unknown. Here, we demonstrate both in vivo and in vitro that FLVCR2 is a BBB choline transporter and is responsible for the majority of choline uptake into the brain. We also determine the structures of choline-bound FLVCR2 in the inward- and outward-facing states using cryo-electron microscopy to 2.49 and 2.77 Å resolution, respectively. These results reveal how the brain obtains choline and provide molecular-level insights into how FLVCR2 binds choline in an aromatic cage and mediates its uptake. Our work could provide a novel framework for the targeted delivery of neurotherapeutics into the brain.