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Plant J. 2009 Jan;57(2):346-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03691.x. Epub 2008 Sep 21.

An N-terminal diacidic motif is required for the trafficking of maize aquaporins ZmPIP2;4 and ZmPIP2;5 to the plasma membrane.

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Institut des Sciences de la Vie, Université catholique de Louvain, Croix du Sud 5-15, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


Maize plasma membrane aquaporins (ZmPIPs, where PIP is the plasma membrane intrinsic protein) fall into two groups, ZmPIP1s and ZmPIP2s, which, when expressed alone in mesophyll protoplasts, are found in different subcellular locations. Whereas ZmPIP1s are retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), ZmPIP2s are found in the plasma membrane (PM). We previously showed that, when co-expressed with ZmPIP2s, ZmPIP1s are relocalized to the PM, and that this relocalization results from the formation of hetero-oligomers between ZmPIP1s and ZmPIP2s. To determine the domains responsible for the ER retention and PM localization, respectively, of ZmPIP1s and ZmPIP2s, truncated and mutated ZmPIPs were generated, together with chimeric proteins created by swapping the N- or C-terminal regions of ZmPIP2s and ZmPIP1s. These mutated proteins were fused to the mYFP and/or mCFP, and the fusion proteins were expressed in maize mesophyll protoplasts, and were then localized by microscopy. This allowed us to identify a diacidic motif, DIE (Asp-Ile-Glu), at position 4-6 of the N-terminus of ZmPIP2;5, that is essential for ER export. This motif was conserved and functional in ZmPIP2;4, but was absent in ZmPIP2;1. In addition, we showed that the N-terminus of ZmPIP2;5 was not sufficient to cause the export of ZmPIP1;2 from the ER. A study of ZmPIP1;2 mutants suggested that the N- and C-termini of this protein are probably not involved in ER retention. Together, these results show that the trafficking of maize PM aquaporins is differentially regulated depending on the isoform, and involves a specific signal and mechanism.

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