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Concept: Protein targeting


The Golgi apparatus has attracted intense attentions due to its fascinating morphology and vital role as the pivot of cellular secretory pathway since its discovery. However, its complex structure at the molecular level remains elusive due to limited approaches. In this study, the structure of Golgi apparatus, including the Golgi stack, cisternal structure, relevant tubules and vesicles, were directly visualized by high-resolution atomic force microscope. We imaged both sides of Golgi apparatus membranes and revealed that the outer leaflet of Golgi membranes is relatively smooth while the inner membrane leaflet is rough and covered by dense proteins. With the treatment of methyl-β-cyclodextrin and Triton X-100, we confirmed the existence of lipid rafts in Golgi apparatus membrane, which are mostly in the size of 20 nm -200 nm and appear irregular in shape. Our results may be of significance to reveal the structure-function relationship of the Golgi complex and pave the way for visualizing the endomembrane system in mammalian cells at the molecular level.

Concepts: Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Endoplasmic reticulum, Protein targeting, Endomembrane system, Secretory pathway


The transport of nascent very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi determines their secretion by the liver and is mediated by a specialized ER-derived vesicle, the VLDL transport vesicle (VTV). Our previous studies have shown that the formation of ER-derived VTV requires proteins in addition to coat complex II proteins. The VTV proteome revealed that a 9-kDa protein, small valosin-containing protein-interacting protein (SVIP), is uniquely present in these specialized vesicles. Our biochemical and morphological data indicate that the VTV contains SVIP. Using confocal microscopy and co-immunoprecipitation assays, we show that SVIP co-localizes with apolipoprotein B-100 (apoB100) and specifically interacts with VLDL apoB100 and coat complex II proteins. Treatment of ER membranes with myristic acid in the presence of cytosol increases SVIP recruitment to the ER in a concentration-dependent manner. Furthermore, we show that myristic acid treatment of hepatocytes increases both VTV budding and VLDL secretion. To determine the role of SVIP in VTV formation, we either blocked the SVIP protein using specific antibodies or silenced SVIP by siRNA in hepatocytes. Our results show that both blocking and silencing of SVIP lead to significant reduction in VTV formation. Additionally, we show that silencing of SVIP reduces VLDL secretion, suggesting a physiological role of SVIP in intracellular VLDL trafficking and secretion. We conclude that SVIP acts as a novel regulator of VTV formation by interacting with its cargo and coat proteins and has significant implications in VLDL secretion by hepatocytes.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Cytosol, Cell membrane, Endoplasmic reticulum, Low-density lipoprotein, Apolipoprotein B, Protein targeting


To be secreted or transported to their target compartments, newly synthesized proteins leave the endoplasmic reticulum to reach the Golgi apparatus, where they are processed and sorted toward their final destinations along the secretory pathway. It is now clear that many Golgi-intersecting and non-intersecting pathways exist in cells to carry out proper transport, modification, and addressing. To analyze and visualize the intracellular trafficking of any secretory protein, we developed the retention using selective hooks (RUSH) system. This assay allows the simultaneous release of a pool of particular secretory proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum and the monitoring of their anterograde trafficking. The use of the RUSH system is detailed in these protocols, from sub-cloning the sequence coding for the protein of interest into RUSH plasmids to visualization of its trafficking. Curr. Protoc. Cell Biol. 57:15.19.1-15.19.16. © 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell, Golgi apparatus, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Cell biology, Protein targeting


Acute liver failure (ALF) in infancy and childhood is a life-threatening emergency. Few conditions are known to cause recurrent acute liver failure (RALF), and in about 50% of cases, the underlying molecular cause remains unresolved. Exome sequencing in five unrelated individuals with fever-dependent RALF revealed biallelic mutations in NBAS. Subsequent Sanger sequencing of NBAS in 15 additional unrelated individuals with RALF or ALF identified compound heterozygous mutations in an additional six individuals from five families. Immunoblot analysis of mutant fibroblasts showed reduced protein levels of NBAS and its proposed interaction partner p31, both involved in retrograde transport between endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi. We recommend NBAS analysis in individuals with acute infantile liver failure, especially if triggered by fever.

Concepts: DNA, Cell, Mutation, Molecular biology, Endoplasmic reticulum, Liver, Protein targeting, Compound heterozygosity


A universal method that improves protein stability and evolution has thus far eluded discovery. Recently, however, studies have shown that insertional fusion to a protein chaperone stabilized various target proteins with minimal negative effects. The improved stability was derived from insertion into a hyperthermophilic protein, Pyrococcus furiosus maltodextrin-binding protein (PfMBP), rather than from changes to the target protein sequence. In this report, by evaluating the thermodynamic and kinetic stability of various inserted β-lactamase (BLA) homologues, we were able to examine the molecular determinants of stability realized by insertional fusion to PfMBP. Results indicated that enhanced stability and suppressed aggregation of BLA stemmed from enthalpic and entropic mechanisms. This report also suggests that insertional fusion to a stable protein scaffold has the potential to be a useful method for improving protein stability, as well as functional protein evolution.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Protein, Archaea, Improve, Molecular biology, Energy, Protein targeting


In eukaryotes the delivery of newly synthesized proteins to their final destination is dependent on a series of functionally distinct compartments, including the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi apparatus, which plays a role in post-translational modification, sorting and distribution of proteins. Most cargo is sorted within, and exits from, the trans-Golgi network (TGN). Proteins delivered to lysosomes include hydrolytic enzymes and nonenzymic activator proteins. They are directed away from the cell surface by their binding to mannose-6-phosphate receptors (MPR). However, in I-cell disease, in which the MPR pathway is disrupted, the nonenzymic sphingolipid activator protein, prosaposin, continue to traffic to lysosomes. This observation led to discovery of a new lysosomal sorting receptor, sortilin. The targeting prosaposin to the lysosomes results from the interaction of its C-terminus with sortilin. Deletion of the C-terminus did not interfere with its secretion, but abolished its transport to the lysosomes. Mutational analysis revealed that the first half of the prosaposin C-terminus contains a motif required for its binding to sortilin and its transport to the lysosomes. Prosaposin can be also secreted to the extracellular space as oligomers. Extracellular prosaposin showed to exert a variety of responses in nervous tissues including the activation of G protein-coupled receptors and ERK phosphorylation. Lastly, prosaposin has been found to be expressed in other fluids of the body such as pancreatic juice, bile, cerebrospinal fluid, milk and seminal fluid, indicating that prosaposin is not only a house keeping lysosomal protein but an essential factor in the development and maintenance of the nervous systems and other systems of the body.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Lysosome, Protein targeting


What is the minimal set of cell-biological ingredients needed to generate a Golgi apparatus? The compositions of eukaryotic organelles arise through a process of molecular exchange via vesicle traffic. Here we statistically sample tens of thousands of homeostatic vesicle traffic networks generated by realistic molecular rules governing vesicle budding and fusion. Remarkably, the plurality of these networks contain chains of compartments that undergo creation, compositional maturation, and dissipation, coupled by molecular recycling along retrograde vesicles. This motif precisely matches the cisternal maturation model of the Golgi, which was developed to explain many observed aspects of the eukaryotic secretory pathway. In our analysis cisternal maturation is a robust consequence of vesicle traffic homeostasis, independent of the underlying details of molecular interactions or spatial stacking. This architecture may have been exapted rather than selected for its role in the secretion of large cargo.

Concepts: Cell, Organism, Cytosol, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Endoplasmic reticulum, Lysosome, Protein targeting


Flaviviruses infect hundreds of millions of people annually, and no antiviral therapy is available. We performed a genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9-based screen to identify host genes that, when edited, resulted in reduced flavivirus infection. Here, we validated nine human genes required for flavivirus infectivity, and these were associated with endoplasmic reticulum functions including translocation, protein degradation, and N-linked glycosylation. In particular, a subset of endoplasmic reticulum-associated signal peptidase complex (SPCS) proteins was necessary for proper cleavage of the flavivirus structural proteins (prM and E) and secretion of viral particles. Loss of SPCS1 expression resulted in markedly reduced yield of all Flaviviridae family members tested (West Nile, Dengue, Zika, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and hepatitis C viruses), but had little impact on alphavirus, bunyavirus, or rhabdovirus infection or the surface expression or secretion of diverse host proteins. We found that SPCS1 dependence could be bypassed by replacing the native prM protein leader sequences with a class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigen leader sequence. Thus, SPCS1, either directly or indirectly via its interactions with unknown host proteins, preferentially promotes the processing of specific protein cargo, and Flaviviridae have a unique dependence on this signal peptide processing pathway. SPCS1 and other signal processing pathway members could represent pharmacological targets for inhibiting infection by the expanding number of flaviviruses of medical concern.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Cell, Virus, Endoplasmic reticulum, Major histocompatibility complex, Protein targeting, Flaviviridae


The secretory pathway of eukaryotic cells packages cargo proteins into COPII-coated vesicles for transport from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi. We now report that complete genetic deficiency for the COPII component SEC24A is compatible with normal survival and development in the mouse, despite the fundamental role of SEC24 in COPII vesicle formation and cargo recruitment. However, these animals exhibit markedly reduced plasma cholesterol, with mutations in Apoe and Ldlr epistatic to Sec24a, suggesting a receptor-mediated lipoprotein clearance mechanism. Consistent with these data, hepatic LDLR levels are up-regulated in SEC24A-deficient cells as a consequence of specific dependence of PCSK9, a negative regulator of LDLR, on SEC24A for efficient exit from the ER. Our findings also identify partial overlap in cargo selectivity between SEC24A and SEC24B, suggesting a previously unappreciated heterogeneity in the recruitment of secretory proteins to the COPII vesicles that extends to soluble as well as trans-membrane cargoes. DOI:

Concepts: Cell, Eukaryote, Golgi apparatus, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Cell biology, Vesicle, Protein targeting


Alzheimer’s disease is an increasingly prevalent neurodegenerative disorder whose pathogenesis has been associated with aggregation of the amyloid-β peptide (Aβ42). Recent studies have revealed that once Aβ42 fibrils are generated, their surfaces effectively catalyze the formation of neurotoxic oligomers. Here we show that a molecular chaperone, a human Brichos domain, can specifically inhibit this catalytic cycle and limit human Aβ42 toxicity. We demonstrate in vitro that Brichos achieves this inhibition by binding to the surfaces of fibrils, thereby redirecting the aggregation reaction to a pathway that involves minimal formation of toxic oligomeric intermediates. We verify that this mechanism occurs in living mouse brain tissue by cytotoxicity and electrophysiology experiments. These results reveal that molecular chaperones can help maintain protein homeostasis by selectively suppressing critical microscopic steps within the complex reaction pathways responsible for the toxic effects of protein misfolding and aggregation.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Protein folding, Neurology, Chaperone, Toxicity, Protein targeting