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The basolateral sorting signal of the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor contains two functional domains
V. Reich, K. Mostov, B. Aroeti


Basolateral sorting of the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR) expressed in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells is mediated by a 17-residue sorting signal that resides in the cytoplasmic domain. We have recently analyzed the sequence requirements of the signal by alanine scanning mutagenesis. We found that basolateral sorting is mediated primarily by three amino acids: H656, R657 and V660. Individual mutations of each of these residues to Ala caused a substantial decrease in basolateral sorting and a corresponding increase in targeting to the apical surface. Structural analysis of 17-residue peptides corresponding to the signal revealed that V660 is in a beta-turn (probably type I) secondary structure, and its mutation to Ala destabilized the turn. H656 and R657 were not part of the turn and substitution of Arg657 to Ala had no effect on the turn stability. These results suggested that the signal is comprised of two structurally distinct domains: a critical V660 in the context of the beta-turn and an additional two residues (H656 and R657) that are not in the turn and probably are unimportant for its stability. Here we provide evidence suggesting that the two domains are distinguishable not only by their structure but also by their function. Basolateral targeting of pIgR mutants bearing Ala mutations at either 656 or 657 was not affected by treatment with brefeldin A (BFA), while basolateral targeting of pIgR containing an Ala substitution at position 660 was markedly and uniquely stimulated by BFA. Compared to single Ala substitutions, simultaneous mutations of H656 and R657 to Ala caused an additional minor effect on basolateral and apical sorting, whereas double mutations of V660 and either H656 or R657 resulted in a maximal decrease in basolateral targeting and corresponding increase in apical targeting. These results suggest the existence of two domains in the signal. When both domains are destroyed, basolateral targeting is maximally inhibited. The results also imply that V660 mediates basolateral sorting by a different mechanism from H656 and R657. We suggest that V660 and perhaps more generally the beta-turn may interact with BFA-sensitive adaptor complexes.