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Mol Biol Cell. 2003 Aug;14(8):3305-24. Epub 2003 May 3.

Distinct mechanisms of agonist-induced endocytosis for human chemokine receptors CCR5 and CXCR4.

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Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Desensitization of the chemokine receptors, a large class of G protein-coupled receptors, is mediated in part by agonist-driven receptor endocytosis. However, the exact pathways have not been fully defined. Here we demonstrate that the rate of ligand-induced endocytosis of CCR5 in leukocytes and expression systems is significantly slower than that of CXCR4 and requires prolonged agonist treatment, suggesting that these two receptors use distinct mechanisms. We show that the C-terminal domain of CCR5 is the determinant of its slow endocytosis phenotype. When the C-tail of CXCR4 was exchanged for that of CCR5, the resulting CXCR4-CCR5 (X4-R5) chimera displayed a CCR5-like trafficking phenotype. We found that the palmitoylated cysteine residues in this domain anchor CCR5 to plasma membrane rafts. CXCR4 and a C-terminally truncated CCR5 mutant (CCR5-KRFX) lacking these cysteines are not raft associated and are endocytosed by a clathrin-dependent pathway. Genetic inhibition of clathrin-mediated endocytosis demonstrated that a significant fraction of ligand-occupied CCR5 trafficked by clathrin-independent routes into caveolin-containing vesicular structures. Thus, the palmitoylated C-tail of CCR5 is the major determinant of its raft association and endocytic itineraries, differentiating it from CXCR4 and other chemokine receptors. This novel feature of CCR5 may modulate its signaling potential and could explain its preferential use by HIV for person-to-person transmission of disease.

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