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The design of functional membrane proteins from first principles represents a grand challenge in chemistry and structural biology. Here, we report the design of a membranespanning, four-helical bundle that transports first-row transition metal ions Zn 2+ and Co2+, but not Ca2+, across membranes. The conduction path was designed to contain two di-metal binding sites that bind with negative cooperativity. X-ray crystallography and solid-state and solution nuclear magnetic resonance indicate that the overall helical bundle is formed from two tightly interacting pairs of helices, which form individual domains that interact weakly along a more dynamic interface. Vesicle flux experiments show that as Zn2+ ions diffuse down their concentration gradients, protons are antiported. These experiments illustrate the feasibility of designing membrane proteins with predefined structural and dynamic properties.

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