Separate elements are required for ligand-dependent and -independent internalization of metastatic potentiator CXCR4

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The C-terminal cytoplasmic domain of the metastatic potentiator CXCR4 regulates its function and spatiotemporal expression. However, little is known about the mechanism underlying constitutive internalization of CXCR4 compared to internalization mediated by its ligand, stromal cell-derived factor-1 alpha (SDF-1α)/CXCL12. We established a system to analyze the role of the CXCR4 cytoplasmic tail in steady-state internalization using the NP2 cell line, which lacks endogenous CXCR4 and SDF-1α. Deleting more than six amino acids from the C-terminus dramatically reduced constitutive internalization of CXCR4. Alanine substitution mutations revealed that three of those amino acids Ser344 Glu345 Ser346 are essential for efficient steady-state internalization of CXCR4. Mutating Glu345 to Asp did not disrupt internalization, suggesting that the steady-state internalization motif is S(E/D)S. When responses to SDF-1α were tested, cells expressing CXCR4 mutants lacking the C-terminal 10, 14, 22, 31 or 44 amino acids did not show downregulation of cell surface CXCR4 or the cell migration induced by SDF-1α. Interestingly, however, we identified two mutants, one with E344A mutation and the other lacking the C-terminal 17 amino acids, that were defective in constitutive internalization but competent in ligand-promoted internalization and cell migration. These data demonstrate that ligand-dependent and -independent internalization is genetically separable and that, between amino acids 336 and 342, there is a negative regulatory element for ligand-promoted internalization. Potential involvement of this novel motif in cancer metastasis and other CXCR4-associated disorders such as warts, hypogammaglobulinemia, infections and myelokathexis (WHIM) syndrome is discussed.

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