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J Biol Chem. 2009 Jul 31;284(31):20499-511. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.019042. Epub 2009 Jun 3.

Red fluorescent protein pH biosensor to detect concentrative nucleoside transport.

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Membrane Protein Research Group, Department of Physiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2H7, Canada.


Human concentrative nucleoside transporter, hCNT3, mediates Na+/nucleoside and H+/nucleoside co-transport. We describe a new approach to monitor H+/uridine co-transport in cultured mammalian cells, using a pH-sensitive monomeric red fluorescent protein variant, mNectarine, whose development and characterization are also reported here. A chimeric protein, mNectarine fused to the N terminus of hCNT3 (mNect.hCNT3), enabled measurement of pH at the intracellular surface of hCNT3. mNectarine fluorescence was monitored in HEK293 cells expressing mNect.hCNT3 or mNect.hCNT3-F563C, an inactive hCNT3 mutant. Free cytosolic mNect, mNect.hCNT3, and the traditional pH-sensitive dye, BCECF, reported cytosolic pH similarly in pH-clamped HEK293 cells. Cells were incubated at the permissive pH for H(+)-coupled nucleoside transport, pH 5.5, under both Na(+)-free and Na(+)-containing conditions. In mNect.hCNT3-expressing cells (but not under negative control conditions) the rate of acidification increased in media containing 0.5 mm uridine, providing the first direct evidence for H(+)-coupled uridine transport. At pH 5.5, there was no significant difference in uridine transport rates (coupled H+ flux) in the presence or absence of Na+ (1.09 +/- 0.11 or 1.18 +/- 0.32 mm min(-1), respectively). This suggests that in acidic Na(+)-containing conditions, 1 Na+ and 1 H+ are transported per uridine molecule, while in acidic Na(+)-free conditions, 1 H+ alone is transported/uridine. In acid environments, including renal proximal tubule, H+/nucleoside co-transport may drive nucleoside accumulation by hCNT3. Fusion of mNect to hCNT3 provided a simple, self-referencing, and effective way to monitor nucleoside transport, suggesting an approach that may have applications in assays of transport activity of other H(+)-coupled transport proteins.

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