The transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP) represents a focal point in the immune recognition of virally or malignantly transformed cells by translocating proteasomal degradation products into the endoplasmic reticulum–lumen for loading of MHC class I molecules. Based on a number of experimental data and the homology to the bacterial ABC exporter Sav1866, we constructed a 3D structural model of the core TAP complex and used it to examine the interface between the transmembrane and nucleotide-binding domains (NBD) by cysteine-scanning and cross-linking approaches. Herein, we demonstrate the functional importance of the newly identified X-loop in the NBD in coupling substrate binding to downstream events in the transport cycle. We further verified domain swapping in a heterodimeric ABC half-transporter complex by cysteine cross-linking. Strikingly, either substrate binding or translocation can be blocked by cross-linking the X-loop to coupling helix 2 or 1, respectively. These results resolve the structural arrangement of the transmission interface and point to different functions of the cytosolic loops and coupling helices in substrate binding, signaling, and transport
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