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J Biol Chem. 1998 Jul 10;273(28):17351-60.

A leucine-based motif mediates the endocytosis of vesicular monoamine and acetylcholine transporters.

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  • 1Departments of Neurology and Physiology, Graduate Programs in Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, California 94143-0435, USA.


Specific transport proteins mediate the packaging of neurotransmitters into secretory vesicles and consequently require targeting to the appropriate intracellular compartment. To identify residues in the neuron-specific vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT2) responsible for endocytosis, we examined the effect of amino (NH2-) and carboxyl (COOH-)-terminal mutations on steady state distribution and internalization. Deletion of a critical COOH-terminal domain sequence (AKEEKMAIL) results in accumulation of VMAT2 at the plasma membrane and a 50% reduction in endocytosis. Site-directed mutagenesis shows that replacement of the isoleucine-leucine pair within this sequence by alanine-alanine alone reduces endocytosis by 50% relative to wild type VMAT2. Furthermore, the KEEKMAIL sequence functions as an internalization signal when transferred to the plasma membrane protein Tac, and the mutation of the isoleucine-leucine pair also abolishes internalization of this protein. The closely related vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) contains a similar di-leucine sequence within the cytoplasmic COOH-terminal domain that when mutated results in accumulation of VAChT at the plasma membrane. The VAChT di-leucine sequence also confers internalization when appended to two other proteins and in one of these chimeras, conversion of the di-leucine sequence to di-alanine reduces the internalization rate by 50%. Both VMAT2 and VAChT thus use leucine-based signals for efficient endocytosis and as such are the first synaptic vesicle proteins known to use this motif for trafficking.

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