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J Biol Chem. 2001 May 4;276(18):14848-54. Epub 2001 Feb 6.

Disease-associated mutations in the extracytoplasmic loops of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator do not impede biosynthetic processing but impair chloride channel stability.

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S. C. Johnson Medical Research Center, Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona 85259, USA.


Consistent with its function as a chloride channel regulated entirely from the cytoplasmic side of the plasma membrane, the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) glycoprotein exposes little of its mass on the exterior surface of cells. The first and fourth extracytoplasmic loops (ELs) contain approximately 15 and 30 residues, respectively; the other four ELs are extremely short. To examine the influence of missense mutants in ELs detected in patients with cystic fibrosis, we have expressed them in mammalian (baby hamster kidney (BHK21)) cells and assessed their biosynthetic processing and chloride channel activity. In contrast to previous findings that 18 of 30 disease-associated missense mutations in cytoplasmic loops caused retention of the nascent polypeptides in the endoplasmic reticulum, all the EL mutants studied matured and were transported to the cell surface. This pronounced asymmetry is consistent with the notion that endoplasmic reticulum quality control of nascent CFTR is exerted primarily on the cytoplasmic side of the membrane. Although this set of EL mutations has little effect on CFTR maturation, most of them seriously compromise its chloride channel activity. Substitutions at six different positions in EL1 and single positions in EL2 and EL4 all destabilized the open state, some of them severely, indicating that the ELs contribute to the stability of the CFTR ion pore.

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