1.A.26 The Mg2+ Transporter-E (MgtE) Family

Several functionally characterized members of the MgtE/SLC41 family have been described. These include MgtE from the Gram-positive bacterium, Bacillus firmus OF4, and MgtE from the Gram-negative bacterium, Providencia stuartii. These proteins are capable of transporting Mg2+ and Co2+ but not Ni2+. The KM values for Mg2+ and Co2+ uptake are in the 50-100 μM range. An MgtE homologue from Aeromonas hydrophila expressed in a Salmonella typhimurium strain that is deleted for all Mg2+ transporters complements the defect, both phenotypically and by allowing 57Co2+ uptake (Merino et al., 2001). MstE (1.A.26.1.2), CLC (2.A.49.6.1) and HlyC/CorC (HCC; 9.A.40.1.2) may all share a hydrophilic domain.  The metal-binding site of the MgtE TM domain binds to Mg2+ approximately 500-fold more strongly than to Ca2+Teng et al. 2022 determined the crystal structure of the MgtE TM domain in complex with Ca2+ at 2.5 Å resolution, revealing hexahydrated Ca2+. These results provide mechanistic insights into the ion selectivity of MgtE for Mg2+ over Ca2+.

MgtE is a homodimeric Mg2+-selective channel and is negatively regulated by high intracellular Mg2+ concentrations where the cytoplasmic domain of MgtE acts as a Mg2+ sensor, and Mg2+-dependent gating is dependent on lipid-protein interactions (Chatterjee et al. 2020). MgtE structures in the Mg2+-bound, closed-state, and structure-based functional analyses of MgtE revealed that the binding of Mg2+ ions to the MgtE cytoplasmic domain induces channel inactivation to maintain Mg2+ homeostasis. Jin et al. 2021 determined the cryo-EM structure of a MgtE-Fab complex in the absence of Mg2+ ions. The Mg2+-free MgtE TM domain structure and its comparison with the Mg2+-bound, closed-state structure, together with functional analyses, showed the Mg2+-dependent pore opening of MgtE on the cytoplasmic side and revealed the kink motions of the TMS2 and TMS5 helices at the glycine residues, which are important for channel activity (Jin et al. 2021).

Members of the family have been sequenced from a wide variety of bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. Their phylogeny roughly follows that of the organismal taxonomies. They have sizes that vary considerably from 311 residues for the Methanococcus thermoautotrophicum protein, 463 residues for the Synechocystis homologue, and 513 residues for the human homologue, SLC41A1. The B. firmus transporter and several homologues examined have strongly charged, hydrophilic N-terminal domains (cytoplasmic) followed by a hydrophobic C-terminal domain with 5 putative transmembrane α-helical spanners. A central 100 residues resembles archaeal inositol monophosphate dehydrogenases (Kehres and Maguire, 2002). Kehres and Maguire (2002) suggested that the MgtE proteins are secondary carriers (uniporters?) with inwardly directed polarity. Hattori et al. (2009) have considered MgtE to function by a channel mechanism. They provided evidence that the MgtE cytosolic domain acts as a Mg2+ sensor to regulate gating of the pore in response to the intracellular Mg2+ concentration. This produces a mechanism for the maintenance of homeostasis conditions (Hattori et al., 2009).  Structure, mechanism and regulation have been reviewed (Payandeh et al. 2013; Sahni and Scharenberg 2013).

Mg2+ has the largest hydrated radius among all cations although its ionic radius is the smallest. How do Mg2+ transporters selectively recognize and dehydrate the large, fully hydrated Mg2+ cation for transport? Human homologues have been functionally characterized and suggested to be involved in magnesium homeostasis. Hattori et al. (2007) determined the crystal structures of the full-length Thermus thermophilus MgtE at 3.5 Å resolution, and of the cytosolic domain in the presence and absence of Mg2+ at 2.3 Å and 3.9 Å resolutions, respectively. The transporter adopts a homodimeric architecture. The carboxy-terminal domain has five TMSs. The amino-terminal cytosolic part consists of the superhelical N domain and tandemly repeated cystathionine-β-synthase domains. A solvent-accessible pore nearly traverses the transmembrane domains, with one potential Mg2+ bound to the conserved Asp 432 within the pore. The transmembrane helices #5 from both subunits close the pore through interactions with the 'connecting helices', which connect the cystathionine-β-synthase and transmembrane domains. Four putative Mg2+ ions are bound at the interface between the connecting helices and the other domains, and this may lock the closed conformation of the pore. A structural comparison of the two states of the cytosolic domains showed the Mg2+-dependent movement of the connecting helices, which might reorganize the transmembrane helices to open the pore. These findings suggest a homeostatic mechanism, in which Mg2+, bound between cytosolic domains, regulates Mg2+ flux by sensing the intracellular Mg2+ concentration. Whether this presumed regulation controls gating of an ion channel or opening of a secondary active transporter remains to be determined.

The cytosolic domain of MgtE undergoes a Mg2+-dependent structural change, which may gate the ion-conducting pore passing through the transmembrane domain. Ishitani et al. (2008) performed molecular dynamics simulations of the MgtE cytosolic domain which reproduced the structural changes of the cytosolic domain upon binding or releasing Mg2+. The roles of the N and CBS domains in the cytosolic domain and their respective Mg2+ binding sites were proposed.

Maruyama et al. (2012) showed that MgtE exhibits the channel-like electrophysiological property, i.e., Mg2+ transport occurs in accordance to the electrochemical potential of Mg2+. The Mg2+-permeation pathway opens in response to a decrease of the intracellular Mg2+ concentration, while it is completely closed at the intracellular Mg2+ concentration of 10 mM. The crystal structures of the MgtE dimer reveals that the Mg2+-sensing cytoplasmic region consists of the N and CBS domains. The Mg2+-bound state adopts a compact, globular conformation, which is stabilized by the coordination of a number of Mg2+ ions between these domains. On the other hand, in the Mg2+-unbound state, these domains are far apart, and fixed by the crystal packing. Maruyama et al. (2012) reported the backbone resonance assignments of the dimer of the cytoplasmic region of the MgtE from Thermus thermophilus with a molecular weight of 60 KDa, in the Mg2+-unbound state. 

The crystal structures of bacterial CorA and MgtE Mg2+ channels revealed that both structures are unique, unlike that of any other channel or transporter (Moomaw and Maguire 2008). Although structurally quite different, both CorA and MgtE appear to be gated in a similar manner through multiple Mg2+ binding sites in the cytosolic domain of the channels. These sites essentially serve as Mg2+ 'sensors' of cytosolic Mg2+ concentration. MgtE tightly regulates the intracellular Mg2+ concentration. The dimeric structure is composed of a total of ten transmembrane α-helices, forming a central pore. Intracellular soluble domains constitute the Mg2+ sensor. The ion selectivity for Mg2+ over Ca2+ resides in a central cavity in the transmembrane pore involving a conserved aspartate residue (Asp432) from each monomer. Two different classes of binding sites are present in MgtE: a high affinity site for Mg2+ (Kd 0.3 mM) with low Ca2+ affinity (Kd 80 mM), and a medium affinity site for Mg2+ (Kd 2 mM) and Ca2+ (Kd 6 mM), tentatively assigned to the central cavity and the sensor domain, respectively (Kimura et al. 2018).

The transport reaction catalyzed by MgtE proteins is:

Mg2+ (or Co2+) (out) → Mg2+ (or Co2+) (in).



Bennett, B.D., K.E. Redford, and J.A. Gralnick. (2018). MgtE Homolog FicI Acts as a Secondary Ferrous Iron Importer in Shewanella oneidensis Strain MR-1. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 84:.

Chatterjee, S., R. Brahma, and H. Raghuraman. (2020). Gating-related Structural Dynamics of the MgtE Magnesium Channel in Membrane-Mimetics Utilizing Site-Directed Tryptophan Fluorescence. J. Mol. Biol. [Epub: Ahead of Print]

de Baaij, J.H., M.J. Groot Koerkamp, M. Lavrijsen, F. van Zeeland, H. Meijer, F.C. Holstege, R.J. Bindels, and J.G. Hoenderop. (2013). Elucidation of the distal convoluted tubule transcriptome identifies new candidate genes involved in renal Mg2+ handling. Am. J. Physiol. Renal Physiol 305: F1563-1573.

Fleig, A., M. Schweigel-Röntgen, and M. Kolisek. (2013). Solute Carrier Family SLC41, what do we really know about it? Wiley Interdiscip Rev Membr Transp Signal 2:.

Franken, G.A.C., M.A. Huynen, L.A. Martínez-Cruz, R.J.M. Bindels, and J.H.F. de Baaij. (2022). Structural and functional comparison of magnesium transporters throughout evolution. Cell Mol Life Sci 79: 418.

Hattori, M., N. Iwase, N. Furuya, Y. Tanaka, T. Tsukazaki, R. Ishitani, M.E. Maguire, K. Ito, A. Maturana, and O. Nureki. (2009). Mg2+-dependent gating of bacterial MgtE channel underlies Mg2+ homeostasis. EMBO. J. 28: 3602-3612.

Hattori, M., Y. Tanaka, S. Fukai, R. Ishitani, and O. Nureki. (2007). Crystal structure of the MgtE Mg2+ transporter. Nature 448: 1072-1075.

Hurd TW., Otto EA., Mishima E., Gee HY., Inoue H., Inazu M., Yamada H., Halbritter J., Seki G., Konishi M., Zhou W., Yamane T., Murakami S., Caridi G., Ghiggeri G., Abe T. and Hildebrandt F. (2013). Mutation of the Mg2+ transporter SLC41A1 results in a nephronophthisis-like phenotype. J Am Soc Nephrol. 24(6):967-77.

Ishitani, R., Y. Sugita, N. Dohmae, N. Furuya, M. Hattori, and O. Nureki. (2008). Mg2+-sensing mechanism of Mg2+ transporter MgtE probed by molecular dynamics study. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105: 15393-15398.

Jin, F., M. Sun, T. Fujii, Y. Yamada, J. Wang, A.D. Maturana, M. Wada, S. Su, J. Ma, H. Takeda, T. Kusakizako, A. Tomita, Y. Nakada-Nakura, K. Liu, T. Uemura, Y. Nomura, N. Nomura, K. Ito, O. Nureki, K. Namba, S. Iwata, Y. Yu, and M. Hattori. (2021). The structure of MgtE in the absence of magnesium provides new insights into channel gating. PLoS Biol 19: e3001231.

Kehres, D.G. and M.E. Maguire. (2002). Structure, properties and regulation of magnesium transport proteins. Biometals 15: 261-270.

Kimura, T., V.A. Lorenz-Fonfria, S. Douki, H. Motoki, R. Ishitani, O. Nureki, M. Higashi, and Y. Furutani. (2018). Vibrational and Molecular Properties of Mg Binding and Ion Selectivity in the Magnesium Channel MgtE. J Phys Chem B. [Epub: Ahead of Print]

Kolisek, M., P. Launay, A. Beck, G. Sponder, N. Serafini, M. Brenkus, E.M. Froschauer, H. Martens, A. Fleig, and M. Schweigel. (2008). SLC41A1 is a novel mammalian Mg2+ carrier. J. Biol. Chem. 283: 16235-16247.

Mandt, T., Y. Song, A.M. Scharenberg, and J. Sahni. (2011). SLC41A1 Mg2+ transport is regulated via Mg2+-dependent endosomal recycling through its N-terminal cytoplasmic domain. Biochem. J. 439: 129-139.

Maruyama, T., S. Imai, M. Osawa, M. Hattori, R. Ishitani, O. Nureki, and I. Shimada. (2013). Backbone resonance assignments for the cytoplasmic region of the Mg2+ transporter MgtE in the Mg (2+)-unbound state. Biomol NMR Assign 7: 93-96.

Merino, S., R. Gavín, M. Altarriba, L. Izquierdo, M.E. Maguire, and J.M. Tomás. (2001). The MgtE Mg2+ transport protein is involved in Aeromonas hydrophila adherence. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 198: 189-195.

Moomaw, A.S. and M.E. Maguire. (2008). The unique nature of mg2+ channels. Physiology (Bethesda) 23: 275-285.

Payandeh, J., R. Pfoh, and E.F. Pai. (2013). The structure and regulation of magnesium selective ion channels. Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 1828: 2778-2792.

Pohland, A.C. and D. Schneider. (2019). Mg2+ homeostasis and transport in cyanobacteria - at the crossroads of bacterial and chloroplast Mg2+ import. Biol Chem. [Epub: Ahead of Print]

Sahni, J. and A.M. Scharenberg. (2013). The SLC41 family of MgtE-like magnesium transporters. Mol Aspects Med 34: 620-628.

Sahni, J., B. Nelson, and A.M. Scharenberg. (2007). SLC41A2 encodes a plasma-membrane Mg2+ transporter. Biochem. J. 401: 505-513.

Sahni, J., Y. Song, and A.M. Scharenberg. (2012). The B. subtilis MgtE magnesium transporter can functionally compensate TRPM7-deficiency in vertebrate B-cells. PLoS One 7: e44452.

Schäffers, O.J.M., J.G.J. Hoenderop, R.J.M. Bindels, and J.H.F. de Baaij. (2018). The rise and fall of novel renal magnesium transporters. Am. J. Physiol. Renal Physiol 314: F1027-F1033.

Schmitz, C., F. Deason, and A.L. Perraud. (2007). Molecular components of vertebrate Mg2+-homeostasis regulation. Magnes Res 20: 6-18.

Smith, R.L., L.J. Thompson, and M.E. Maguire. (1995). Cloning and characterization of MgtE, a putative new class of Mg2+ transporter from Bacillus firmus OF4. J. Bacteriol. 177: 1233-1238.

Sponder, G., K. Rutschmann, and M. Kolisek. (2013). "Inside-in" or "inside-out"? The membrane topology of SLC41A1. Magnes Res 26: 176-181.

Takeda, H., M. Hattori, T. Nishizawa, K. Yamashita, S.T. Shah, M. Caffrey, A.D. Maturana, R. Ishitani, and O. Nureki. (2014). Structural basis for ion selectivity revealed by high-resolution crystal structure of Mg2+ channel MgtE. Nat Commun 5: 5374.

Teng, X., D. Sheng, J. Wang, Y. Yu, and M. Hattori. (2022). Ion selectivity mechanism of the MgtE channel for Mg over Ca. iScience 25: 105565.

Wabakken, T., E. Rian, M. Kveine, and H.C. Aasheim. (2003). The human solute carrier SLC41A1 belongs to a novel eukaryotic subfamily with homology to prokaryotic MgtE Mg2+ transporters. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 306: 718-724.

Wang, M., Y. Zhao, Y. Hayashi, K. Ito, and M. Hattori. (2023). Novel Mg binding sites in the cytoplasmic domain of the MgtE Mg channels revealed by X-ray crystal structures. Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (Shanghai) 55: 683-690.

Wijekoon, C.J., T.R. Young, A.G. Wedd, and Z. Xiao. (2015). CopC protein from Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 features a conserved novel high-affinity Cu(II) binding site. Inorg Chem 54: 2950-2959.


TC#NameOrganismal TypeExample

Mg2+, Co2+ transporter, MgtE/SLC41 (Smith et al. 1995).

Gram-positive bacteria

MgtE of Bacillus firmus (Q45121)


The Mg2+ transporter, MgtE. The crystal structure of the N-terminal hydrophilic domain has been determined to 2.3 Å resolution (Hattori et al., 2007) (>50% identical to 9.A.19.1.1), while the C-terminal transmembrane domain has been determined at 2.2 Å resolution (Takeda et al. 2014). The structure reveals a homodimer with the channel at the interface of the two subunits.  There is a plug helix connecting the two domains, and the cytoplasmic domain possesses multiple Mg2+ binding sites at the cytoplasmic face that can bind Mg2+, Mn2+ and Ca2+. Dissociation of Mg2+ ions from the cytoplasmic domain induces structural changes in the cytoplasmic domain, leading to channel opening (Wang et al. 2023). Novel crystal structures of the Mg2+-bound MgtE cytoplasmic domains from two different bacterial species, Chryseobacterium hispalense and Clostridiales bacterium allowed identification of multiple Mg2+ binding sites, including ones that were not observed in the previous MgtE structure. These structures reveal the conservation and diversity of the cytoplasmic Mg2+ binding site in MgtE family proteins (Wang et al. 2023).


MgtE of Thermus thermophilus (Q5SMG8)


The MgtE Mg2+ transporter.  Its expression can compensate a TrpM7 deficiency in vertebrate B-cells (Sahni et al. 2012).


MgtE of Bacillus subtilis


Mg2+, Co2+ transporter, MgtE

Gram-negative bacteria

MgtE of Providencia stuartii (Q52398)


MgtE homologue (function unknown)


MgtE homologue of Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum (O26717)


MgtE homologue of 469 AAs and 5 OR 6 TMSs (Pohland and Schneider 2019).

MgtE of Prochlorococcus marinus


Ferrous iron and cobalt importer, FicI, of 454 aas and 5 C-termnal TMSs. FicI may be a secondary, energy-dependent carrier for iron uptake by S. oneidensis under high Fe2+ concentrations, but it can also take up cobalt (Bennett et al. 2018).

FicI of Shewanella oneidensis


TC#NameOrganismal TypeExample

Mg2+ transporter, SLC41A1 (10 TMSs; N- and C-termini inside) (Wabakken et al., 2003; Schmitz et al., 2007; Kolisek et al., 2008; Sponder et al. 2013). It has been reported to be a Na+:Mg2+ antiporter and therefore a Mg2+ efflux pump (Fleig et al. 2013).  Regulated by Mg2+-dependent endosomal recycling through its N-terminal cytoplasmic domain (Mandt et al., 2011).  Mutations result in a nephronophthisis (NPHP)-like ciliopathic phenotype (Hurd et al. 2013). Reviewed by Schäffers et al. 2018.


SLC41A1 of Homo sapiens


Mg2+ transporter, SLC41A2 (11 TMSs with the N-terminus out and the C-terminus in) (Sahni et al. 2007). (63% identical to SLC41A1) See also (Wabakken et al., 2003; Schmitz et al., 2007)


SLC41A2 of Homo sapiens


Solute carrier protein (SLC) 41A3.  The gene is upregulated when mice are given a Mg2+ deficient diet (de Baaij et al. 2013).  SLC41A3 knockout mice develop abnormal locomotor coordination. It is an established Mg2+ transporter involved in mitochondrial Mg2+ homeostasis (Schäffers et al. 2018).


SLC41A3 of Homo sapiens


MagT or MgtE of 503 aas and 12 TMSs in a 3 + 6 + 3 arrangement. According to CDD, the domain order is:  MgtE_N, a CBS pair (two repeats) and an MgtE domain.

MagT of Caenorhabditis elegans


TC#NameOrganismal TypeExample

MgtE of 251 aas and 5 TMSs

MgtE of Natrinema gari


TC#NameOrganismal TypeExample