Heterodimerization, Altered Subcellular Localization and Function of Multiple Zinc Transporters in Viable Cells Using Bimolecular Fluorescence Complementation [Membrane Biology]

February 5th, 2015 by Golan, Y., Berman, B., Assaraf, Y. G.

Zinc plays a crucial role in numerous key physiological functions. Zinc transporters (ZnTs) mediate zinc efflux and compartmentalization in intracellular organelles; thus, ZnTs play a central role in zinc homeostasis. We have recently shown the in situ dimerization and function of multiple normal and mutant ZnTs using bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC). Prompted by these findings, we here uncovered the heterodimerization, altered subcellular localization and function of multiple ZnTs in live cells using this sensitive BiFC technique. We show that ZnT1, 2, 3 and 4 form stable heterodimers at distinct intracellular compartments, some of which are completely different from their homodimer localization. Specifically, unlike the plasma membrane (PM) localization of ZnT1 homodimers, ZnT1-ZnT3 heterodimers localized at intracellular vesicles. Furthermore, upon heterodimerization with ZnT1, the zinc transporters ZnT2 and ZnT4 surprisingly localized at the PM as opposed to their vesicular homodimer localization. We further demonstrate the deleterious effect that the G87R-ZnT2 mutation, associated with transient neonatal zinc deficiency, has on ZnT1, ZnT3 and ZnT4 upon heterodimerization. The functionality of the various ZnTs was assessed by the dual BiFC-Zinquin assay. We also undertook a novel transfection competition assay with ZnTs cDNAs to confirm that the driving force for heterodimer formation is the core structure of ZnTs and not the BiFC tags. These findings uncover a novel network of homo- and heterodimers of ZnTs with distinct subcellular localizations and function, hence highlighting their possible role in zinc homeostasis under physiological and pathological conditions.
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