Mutations affecting the transmembrane domain of the LDL receptor: impact of charged residues on the membrane insertion

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Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is caused by mutations in the low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) gene. To study the impact of mutations affecting the hydrophobic transmembrane domain of the LDLR, each of the 22 amino acids of the transmembrane domain was individually mutated to arginine. The more centrally in the transmembrane domain an arginine was located, the lower amounts of the 120 kDa precursor LDLR in the endoplasmic reticulum were observed. This led to lower amounts of the 160 kDa mature LDLR on the cell surface. For the mutants V797R-LDLR, L798R-LDLR and L799R-LDLR a proportion of full-length receptors including the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains, was secreted into the endoplasmic reticulum lumen to appear in the culture medium. When the transmembrane domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) was replaced by that of the mutant L799R-LDLR, similar effects were observed for the EGFR as for L799R-LDLR. Introducing arginines in the transmembrane domain of the LDLR also affected metalloproteinase cleavage of the ectodomain and γ-secretase cleavage within the transmembrane domain. The most likely explanation for the low amounts of the 120 kDa precursor is that a basic residue in the hydrophobic transmembrane domain prevents the mutant LDLR from being inserted in the endoplasmic reticulum membrane from the Sec61 translocon complex. As a consequence, quality control systems could be activated. However, our data indicate that proteasomal degradation, lysosomal degradation, autophagy or ectodomain cleavage were not the underlying mechanism for degradation of these mutant LDLRs.

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