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J Biol Chem. 1998 Oct 2;273(40):25616-27.

Identification of sorting determinants in the C-terminal cytoplasmic tails of the gamma-aminobutyric acid transporters GAT-2 and GAT-3.

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Departments of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


In order to perform their physiologic functions, polarized epithelial cells must target ion transport proteins to the appropriate domains of their plasma membranes. Molecular signals responsible for polarized sorting have been identified for several membrane proteins which span the bilayer once. Most ion transport proteins are polytopic, however, and little is known of the signals responsible for the targeting of this class of polypeptides. Members of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transporter family are polytopic membrane proteins found endogenously in both epithelial cells and neurons. We have identified narrowly defined sequences which are required for the proper accumulation of two members of this transporter family in Madin-Darby canine kidney cells. The highly homologous GABA transporter isoforms, GAT-2 and GAT-3, localize to the basolateral and apical surfaces, respectively, when expressed stably in Madin-Darby canine kidney cells. We have generated deletion constructs and chimeric transporters composed of complimentary portions of GAT-2 and GAT-3. We find that information which directs their differential sorting is present in the C-terminal cytoplasmic tails of these two polypeptides. A sequence of 22 amino acids at the C terminus of GAT-2 is required for the transporter's basolateral distribution and is capable of directing GAT-3 to the basolateral surface when appended to the C terminus of this normally apical polypeptide. The deletion of 32 amino acids from the C terminus of GAT-3 causes this transporter to become mislocalized to both surfaces. Moreover, removal of the final three amino acids of GAT-3 (THF) similarly disrupts its apical sorting. The GAT-3 C-terminal sequence resembles motifs which interact with PDZ domains, raising the possibility that the steady state distribution of GAT-3 at the apical plasmalemmal surface requires a protein-protein interaction mediated by its extreme C-terminal cytoplasmic tail. These data provide the first characterization of a protein-based signal required for the apical distribution of a membrane protein.

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