The Journal of biological chemistry

Differential phospholipid substrates and directional transport by ATP-binding cassette proteins ABCA1, ABCA7, and ABCA4 and disease-causing mutants.

PMID 24097981


ABCA1, ABCA7, and ABCA4 are members of the ABCA subfamily of ATP-binding cassette transporters that share extensive sequence and structural similarity. Mutations in ABCA1 cause Tangier disease characterized by defective cholesterol homeostasis and high density lipoprotein (HDL) deficiency. Mutations in ABCA4 are responsible for Stargardt disease, a degenerative disorder associated with severe loss in central vision. Although cell-based studies have implicated ABCA proteins in lipid transport, the substrates and direction of transport have not been firmly established. We have purified and reconstituted ABCA1, ABCA7, and ABCA4 into liposomes for fluorescent-lipid transport studies. ABCA1 actively exported or flipped phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine, and sphingomyelin from the cytoplasmic to the exocytoplasmic leaflet of membranes, whereas ABCA7 preferentially exported phosphatidylserine. In contrast, ABCA4 transported phosphatidylethanolamine in the reverse direction. The same phospholipids stimulated the ATPase activity of these ABCA transporters. The transport and ATPase activities of ABCA1 and ABCA4 were reduced by 25% in the presence of 20% cholesterol. Nine ABCA1 Tangier mutants and the corresponding ABCA4 Stargardt mutants showed significantly reduced phospholipid transport activity and subcellular mislocalization. These studies provide the first direct evidence for ABCA1 and ABCA7 functioning as phospholipid transporters and suggest that this activity is an essential step in the loading of apoA-1 with phospholipids for HDL formation.