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Endocrinology. 2004 Jul;145(7):3095-100. Epub 2004 Apr 29.

Fate of internalized thyrotropin-releasing hormone receptors monitored with a timer fusion protein.

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Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Box 711, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


Trafficking of TRH receptors was studied in a stable HEK293 cell line expressing receptor fused to a Timer protein (TRHR-Timer) that spontaneously changes from green to red over 10 h. Cells expressing TRHR-Timer responded to TRH with an 11-fold increase in inositol phosphate formation, increased intracellular free calcium, and internalization of 75% of bound [(3)H][N(3)-methyl-His(2)]TRH within 10 min. After a 20-min exposure to TRH at 37 C, 75-80% of surface binding sites disappeared as receptors internalized. When TRH was removed and cells incubated in hormone-free medium, approximately 75% of [(3)H][N(3)-methyl-His(2)]TRH binding sites reappeared at the surface over the next 2 h with or without cycloheximide. Trafficking of TRHR-Timer was monitored microscopically after addition and withdrawal of TRH. In untreated cells, both new (green) and old (red) receptors were seen at the plasma membrane, and TRH caused rapid movement of young and old receptors into cytoplasmic vesicles. When TRH was withdrawn, some TRHR-Timer reappeared at the plasma membrane after several hours, but much of the internalized receptor remained intracellular in vesicles that condensed to larger structures in perinuclear regions deeper within the cell. Strikingly, receptors that moved to the plasma membrane were generally younger (more green) than those that underwent endocytosis. There was no change in the red to green ratio over the course of the experiment in cells exposed to vehicle. The results indicate that, after agonist-driven receptor internalization, the plasma membrane is replenished with younger receptors, arising either from an intracellular pool or preferential recycling of younger receptors.

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