Cation diffusion facilitators (CDF) are part of a highly conserved protein family that maintains cellular divalent cation homeostasis in all domains of life. CDF's were shown to be involved in several human diseases, such as Type-II diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. In this work, we employed a multi-disciplinary approach to study the activation mechanism of the CDF protein family. For this we used MamM, one of the main ion transporters of magnetosomes - bacterial organelles that enable magnetotactic bacteria to orientate along geomagnetic fields. Our results reveal that the cytosolic domain of MamM forms a stable dimer that undergoes distinct conformational changes upon divalent cation binding. MamM conformational change is associated with three metal binding sites that were identified and characterized. Altogether, our results provide a novel auto-regulation mode of action model in which the cytosolic domain's conformational changes upon ligand binding allows the priming of the CDF into its transport mode.
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