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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Nov 22;108(47):18932-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1110439108. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

Niemann-Pick type C 1 function requires lumenal domain residues that mediate cholesterol-dependent NPC2 binding.

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Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5307, USA.


Niemann-Pick type C1 (NPC1) protein is needed for cellular utilization of low-density lipoprotein-derived cholesterol that has been delivered to lysosomes. The protein has 13 transmembrane domains, three large lumenal domains, and a cytoplasmic tail. NPC1's lumenally oriented, N-terminal domain binds cholesterol and has been proposed to receive cholesterol from NPC2 protein as part of the process by which cholesterol is exported from lysosomes into the cytosol. Using surface plasmon resonance and affinity chromatography, we show here that the second lumenal domain of NPC1 binds directly to NPC2 protein. For these experiments, a soluble NPC1 lumenal domain 2 was engineered by replacing adjacent transmembrane domains with antiparallel coiled-coil sequences. Interaction of NPC2 with NPC1 lumenal domain 2 is only detected at acidic pH, conditions that are optimal for cholesterol binding to NPC2 and transfer to NPC1; the pH is also appropriate for the acidic environment where binding would take place. Binding to NPC1 domain 2 requires the presence of cholesterol on NPC2 protein, a finding that supports directional transfer of cholesterol from NPC2 onto NPC1's N-terminal domain. Finally, human disease-causing mutations in NPC1 domain 2 decrease NPC2 binding, suggesting that NPC2 binding is necessary for NPC1 function in humans. These data support a model in which NPC1 domain 2 holds NPC2 in position to facilitate directional cholesterol transfer from NPC2 onto NPC1 protein for export from lysosomes.

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