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Mol Biol Cell. 2008 Sep;19(9):3836-46. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E08-02-0160. Epub 2008 Jul 2.

UNC-18 promotes both the anterograde trafficking and synaptic function of syntaxin.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


The SM protein UNC-18 has been proposed to regulate several aspects of secretion, including synaptic vesicle docking, priming, and fusion. Here, we show that UNC-18 has a chaperone function in neurons, promoting anterograde transport of the plasma membrane soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) protein Syntaxin-1. In unc-18 mutants, UNC-64 (Caenorhabditis elegans Syntaxin-1) accumulates in neuronal cell bodies. Colocalization studies and analysis of carbohydrate modifications both suggest that this accumulation occurs in the endoplasmic reticulum. This trafficking defect is specific for UNC-64 Syntaxin-1, because 14 other SNARE proteins and two active zone markers were unaffected. UNC-18 binds to Syntaxin through at least two mechanisms: binding to closed Syntaxin, or to the N terminus of Syntaxin. It is unclear which of these binding modes mediates UNC-18 function in neurons. The chaperone function of UNC-18 was eliminated in double mutants predicted to disrupt both modes of Syntaxin binding, but it was unaffected in single mutants. By contrast, mutations predicted to disrupt UNC-18 binding to the N terminus of Syntaxin caused significant defects in locomotion behavior and responsiveness to cholinesterase inhibitors. Collectively, these results demonstrate the UNC-18 acts as a molecular chaperone for Syntaxin transport in neurons and that the two modes of UNC-18 binding to Syntaxin are involved in different aspects of UNC-18 function.

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