The Journal of biological chemistry

The role of ERp44 in maturation of serotonin transporter protein.

PMID 22451649


In heterologous and endogenous expression systems, we studied the role of ERp44 and its complex partner endoplasmic reticulum (ER) oxidase 1-α (Ero1-Lα) in mechanisms regulating disulfide bond formation for serotonin transporter (SERT), an oligomeric glycoprotein. ERp44 is an ER lumenal chaperone protein that favors the maturation of disulfide-linked oligomeric proteins. ERp44 plays a critical role in the release of proteins from the ER via binding to Ero1-Lα. Mutation in the thioredoxin-like domain hampers the association of ERp44C29S with SERT, which has three Cys residues (Cys-200, Cys-209, and Cys-109) on the second external loop. We further explored the role of the protein chaperones through shRNA knockdown experiments for ERp44 and Ero1-Lα. Those efforts resulted in increased SERT localization to the plasma membrane but decreased serotonin (5-HT) uptake rates, indicating the importance of the ERp44 retention mechanism in the proper maturation of SERT proteins. These data were strongly supported with the data received from the N-biotinylaminoethyl methanethiosulfonate (MTSEA-biotin) labeling of SERT on ERp44 shRNA cells. MTSEA-biotin only interacts with the free Cys residues from the external phase of the plasma membrane. Interestingly, it appears that Cys-200 and Cys-209 of SERT in ERp44-silenced cells are accessible to labeling by MTSEA-biotin. However, in the control cells, these Cys residues are occupied and produced less labeling with MTSEA-biotin. Furthermore, ERp44 preferentially associated with SERT mutants (C200S, C209S, and C109A) when compared with wild type. These interactions with the chaperone may reflect the inability of Cys-200 and Cys-209 SERT mutants to form a disulfide bond and self-association as evidenced by immunoprecipitation assays. Based on these collective findings, we hypothesize that ERp44 together with Ero1-Lα plays an important role in disulfide formation of SERT, which may be a prerequisite step for the assembly of SERT molecules in oligomeric form.