Transition metal-transporting P1B-type CPx ATPases play crucial roles in mediating metal homeostasis and resistance in all cells. The degree to which N-terminal metal binding domains (MBDs) confer metal specificity to the transporter is unclear. We show that the two MBDs of the Zn/Cd/Pb effluxing pump Anabaena AztA are functionally nonequivalent, but only with respect to zinc resistance. Inactivation of the a-MBD largely abrogates resistance to high intracellular Zn(II) levels, whereas inactivation of the b-MBD is not as deleterious. In contrast, inactivation of either the a- or b-MBD has little measurable impact on Cd(II) and Pb(II) resistance. The membrane proximal b-MBD binds Zn(II) with a higher affinity than the distal N-terminal a-MBD. Facile Zn(II)-specific intermolecular transfer from the a-MBD to the higher-affinity b-MBD is readily observed by 1H-15N HSQC spectroscopy. Unlike Zn(II), Cd(II) and Pb(II) form saturated 1:1 S4 or S 3(O/N) complexes with AztAaHbH, where a single metal ion bridges the two MBDs. We propose that the tandem MBDs enhance Zn(II)-specific transport, while stabilizing a non-native inter-MBD Cd/Pb cross-linked structure that is a poor substrate and/or regulator for the transporter.
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