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The role of N-glycosylation in the expression, stability, and ligand recognition by the cocaine- and antidepressant-sensitive human norepinephrine transporter (hNET) was assessed in stably and transiently transfected cell lines. The use of hNET-specific antibodies and the membrane-impermeant biotinylating reagent sulfosuccinimidobiotin establishes that treatment of stably transfected LLC-PK1 cells with tunicamycin depletes surface membranes of mature hNET glycoproteins, which is consistent with a failure of less stable, nonglycosylated subunits to replenish surface compartments. To determine whether N-glycosylation plays a direct role in hNET stability, surface expression, and ligand recognition, we mutated the three hNET canonical N-glycosylation sites (hNETN184, 192, 198Q) and transiently expressed the mutant cDNA in parallel with the parental hNET construct in HeLa and COS cells. hNETN184, 192, 198Q protein exhibited increased electrophoretic mobility (approximately 46 kDa), similar to that of enzymatically N-deglycosylated hNET protein, which confirms the use of canonical sites in the second extracellular loop of the transporter. hNETN184, 192, 198Q protein in HeLa and COS extracts was reduced approximately 50% relative to hNET protein in parallel transfections, demonstrated to arise from a reduction in transporter half-life, which is consistent with the proposed role of N-glycosylation in hNET stability. Both HeLa and COS cells transfected with hNETN184, 192, 198Q exhibit a significantly greater reduction in transport activity than can be accounted for by losses in either total or surface NET protein. Furthermore, sensitivity of catecholamine transport to unlabeled substrate and antagonists was unchanged in the mutant, suggesting that residual nonglycosylated surface hNETs execute a key step in the transport cycle after ligand recognition with reduced efficiency.