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J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 6;277(36):33311-8. Epub 2002 Jun 17.

Endocytic intermediates involved with the intracellular trafficking of a fluorescent cellular prion protein.

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  • 1Laboratório de Neurofarmacologia, Departamento de Farmacologia, ICB, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais 31270-910, Brazil.


We have investigated the intracellular traffic of PrP(c), a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored protein implicated in spongiform encephalopathies. A fluorescent functional green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged version of PrP(c) is found at the cell surface and in intracellular compartments in SN56 cells. Confocal microscopy and organelle-specific markers suggest that the protein is found in both the Golgi and the recycling endosomal compartment. Perturbation of endocytosis with a dynamin I-K44A dominant-negative mutant altered the steady-state distribution of the GFP-PrP(c), leading to the accumulation of fluorescence in unfissioned endocytic intermediates. These pre-endocytic intermediates did not seem to accumulate GFP-GPI, a minimum GPI-anchored protein, suggesting that PrP(c) trafficking does not depend solely on the GPI anchor. We found that internalized GFP-PrP(c) accumulates in Rab5-positive endosomes and that a Rab5 mutant alters the steady-state distribution of GFP-PrP(c) but not that of GFP-GPI between the plasma membrane and early endosomes. Therefore, we conclude that PrP(c) internalizes via a dynamin-dependent endocytic pathway and that the protein is targeted to the recycling endosomal compartment via Rab5-positive early endosomes. These observations indicate that traffic of GFP-PrP(c) is not determined predominantly by the GPI anchor and that, different from other GPI-anchored proteins, PrP(c) is delivered to classic endosomes after internalization.

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