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Science 330 (6004): 601-602

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Structural Biology

The Tao of Chloride Transporter Structure

Joseph A. Mindell

Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a central text of Asian philosophy dating to the 6th century B.C.E., offers paths to enlightenment, in part by considering apparent paradoxes. "We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel," it notes. "But it is on the space where nothing is that the usefulness of the wheel depends" (1). Such thinking applies equally well today—not only to the hole in the center of a wheel, but also to holes in proteins that move ions across cell membranes. Indeed, on page 635 of this issue, Feng et al. (2) present a new structure of a chloride (Cl) transporter that reveals the mechanistic importance of an aqueous hole through the center of the protein: a space where nothing is. This new structure clarifies several paradoxical features of the unusually diverse CLC family of Cl-transporting proteins.

Membrane Transport Biophysics Section, Porter Neuroscience Research Center, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

E-mail: mindellj{at}

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