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J Biol Chem. 2001 Apr 27;276(17):14420-5. Epub 2001 Jan 24.

Internalization of transthyretin. Evidence of a novel yet unidentified receptor-associated protein (RAP)-sensitive receptor.

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  • 1Amyloid Unit, Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular and the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar, Universidade do Porto, 4150 Porto, Portugal.


Transthyretin (TTR) is a plasma carrier of thyroxine and retinol-binding protein (RBP). Though the liver is the major site of TTR degradation, its cellular uptake is poorly understood. We explored TTR uptake using hepatomas and primary hepatocytes and showed internalization by a specific receptor. RBP complexed with TTR led to a 70% decrease of TTR internalization, whereas TTR bound to thyroxine led to a 20% increase. Different TTR mutants showed differences in uptake, suggesting receptor recognition dependent on the structure of TTR. Cross-linking studies using hepatomas and (125)I-TTR revealed a approximately 90-kDa complex corresponding to (125)I-TTR bound to its receptor. Given previous evidence that a fraction of TTR is associated with high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and that in the kidney, megalin, a member of the low-density lipoprotein receptor family (LDLr) internalizes TTR, we hypothesized that TTR and lipoproteins could share related degradation pathways. Using lipid-deficient serum in uptake assays, no significant changes were observed showing that TTR uptake is not lipoprotein-dependent or due to TTR-lipoprotein complexes. However, competition studies showed that lipoproteins inhibit TTR internalization. The scavenger receptor SR-BI, a HDL receptor, and known LDLr family hepatic receptors did not mediate TTR uptake as assessed using different cellular systems. Interestingly, the receptor-associated protein (RAP), a ligand for all members of the LDLr, was able to inhibit TTR internalization. Moreover, the approximately 90-kDa TTR-receptor complex obtained by cross-linking was sensitive to the presence of RAP. To confirm that RAP sensitivity observed in hepatomas did not represent a mechanism absent in normal cells, primary hepatocytes were tested, and similar results were obtained. The RAP-sensitive TTR internalization together with displacement of TTR uptake by lipoproteins, further suggests that a common pathway might exist between TTR and lipoprotein metabolism and that an as yet unidentified RAP-sensitive receptor mediates TTR uptake.

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