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J Biol Chem. 2009 Apr 10;284(15):9683-91. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M807050200. Epub 2009 Feb 2.

Different roles of C-terminal cassettes in the trafficking of full-length NR1 subunits to the cell surface.

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Laboratory of Neurochemistry, NIDCD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


N-Methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are glutamate-gated ion channels composed of NR1 and NR2 subunits. When expressed alone, the most prevalent NR1 splice variant and all NR2 subunits are retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), whereas other NR1 splice variants reach the cell surface to varying degrees. Because similar trafficking patterns have been seen for single transmembrane domain chimeric proteins with appended C termini of NMDA receptor subunits, these chimeric proteins have been used as a model for studying the mechanisms underlying the ER retention and surface trafficking of NMDA receptors. Using this approach, an RRR motif in the C1 cassette has been identified as a major ER retention signal present in NR1 subunits, and the surface localization of other NR1 splice variants has been explained by the absence of the C1 cassette or by the presence of a PDZ/coatomer protein complex II-binding domain in the C2' cassette. However, when we tested these conclusions using full-length NR1 constructs, a more complex role of the C-terminal cassettes in the trafficking of NR1 subunits emerged. Our experiments showed that two independent ER retention motifs in the C1 cassette, KKK and RRR, are the signals mediating ER retention of the full-length NR1 subunits and that the C2 cassette has an additional inhibitory effect on the forward trafficking of NR1 subunits. On the other hand, C0 and C2' cassettes had an enhancing effect on the trafficking of NR1 subunits to the cell surface. Our observations identify the unique roles of C-terminal cassettes in the trafficking of full-length NR1 subunits.

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