Sequence determinants of theCaenhorhabditis elegansdopamine transporter dictatingin vivoaxonal export and synaptic localization

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The monoamine neurotransmitter dopamine (DA) acts across phylogeny to modulate both simple and complex behaviors. The presynaptic DA transporter (DAT) is a major determinant of DA signaling capacity in ensuring efficient extracellular DA clearance. In humans, DAT is also a major target for prescribed and abused psychostimulants. Multiple structural determinants of DAT function and regulation have been defined, though largely these findings have arisen from heterologous expression or ex vivo cell culture studies. Loss of function mutations in the gene encoding the Caenhorhabditis elegans DAT (dat-1) produces rapid immobility when animals are placed in water, a phenotype termed swimming-induced paralysis (Swip). The ability of a DA neuron-expressed, GFP-tagged DAT-1 fusion protein (GFP::DAT-1) to localize to synapses and rescue Swip in these animals provides a facile approach to define sequences supporting DAT somatic export and function in vivo. In prior studies, we found that truncation of the last 25 amino acids of the DAT-1 C-terminus (Δ25) precludes Swip rescue, supported by a deficit in GFP::DAT-1 synaptic localization. Here, we further defined the elements within Δ25 required for DAT-1 export and function in vivo. We identified two conserved motifs (584KW585 and 591PYRKR595) where mutation results in a failure of GFP::DAT-1 to be efficiently exported to synapses and restore DAT-1 function. The 584KW585 motif conforms to a sequence proposed to support SEC24 binding, ER export from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and surface expression of mammalian DAT proteins, whereas the 591PYRKR595 sequence conforms to a 3R motif identified as a SEC24 binding site in vertebrate G-protein coupled receptors. Consistent with a potential role of SEC24 orthologs in DAT-1 export, we demonstrated DA neuron-specific expression of a sec-24.2 transcriptional reporter. Mutations of the orthologous C-terminal sequences in human DAT (hDAT) significantly reduced transporter surface expression and DA uptake, despite normal hDAT protein expression. Although, hDAT mutants retained SEC24 interactions, as defined in co-immunoprecipitation studies. However, these mutations disrupted the ability of SEC24D to enhance hDAT surface expression. Our studies document an essential role of conserved DAT C-terminal sequences in transporter somatic export and synaptic localization in vivo, that add further support for important roles for SEC24 family members in efficient transporter trafficking.HighlightsPresynaptic DAT is a critical determinant of DA signaling across phylogeny.Two C-terminal motifs dictate synaptic localization of Caenhorhabditis elegans DAT-1.Sequence motifs associated with SEC24 support DAT axonal export.SEC24 proteins support DAT trafficking across phylogeny.

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