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Chem Biol Interact. 2008 Sep 25;175(1-3):349-51. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2008.04.023. Epub 2008 Apr 29.

Trafficking of cholinesterases and neuroligins mutant proteins. An association with autism.

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Department of Pharmacology, Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0657, USA.


Autism encompasses a wide spectrum of disorders arising during brain development. Recent studies reported that sequence polymorphisms in neuroligin-3 (NLGN3) and neuroligin-4 (NLGN4) genes have been linked to autism spectrum disorders indicating neuroligin genes as candidate targets in brain disorders. We have characterized a single mutation found in two affected brothers that substituted Arg451 to Cys in NL3. Our data show that the exposed Cys causes retention of the protein in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) when expressed in HEK-293 cells. To examine whether the introduction of a Cys in the C-terminal region of other alpha/beta-hydrolase fold proteins could promote the same cellular phenotype, we made homologous mutations in acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) and found a similar processing deficiency and intracellular retention (De Jaco et al., J Biol Chem. 2006, 281:9667-76). NL3, AChE and BChE mutant proteins are recognized as misfolded in the ER, and degraded via the proteasome pathway. A 2D electrophoresis coupled with mass spectrometry based approach was used to analyze proteins co-immunoprecipitating with NL3 and show differential expression of factors interacting with wild type and mutant NL3. We identified several proteins belonging to distinct ER resident chaperones families, including calnexin, responsible for playing a role in the folding steps of the AChE and NLs.

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