System Xc - Regulation: Effects of Mutations on Membrane Expression and Ubiquitination Status

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Leah Chase, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program and Departments of Biology and Chemistry

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System xc- exchanges intracellular glutamate for extracellular cystine across the membrane of many cell types, including astrocytes. Its activity directly regulates the synthesis of the antioxidant glutathione and the extracellular concentration of glutamate in some areas of the brain. We recently demonstrated that oxidants acutely upregulate System xc- activity by triggering the rapid redistribution of the transporter from intracellular compartments to the cell surface. Our current work suggests that the trafficking of the transporter may be regulated by ubiquitination and that oxidant exposure directly influences the ubiquitination of the transporter. In this study we sought to test the hypothesis that the ubiquitination status of the transporter regulates both its cell surface expression and activity. We have used a mutagenesis approach to disrupt putative ubiquitination sites and a putative ubiquitin ligase binding site within a myc-tagged System xc- construct so that we can understand the role ubiquitination plays in regulating the cell surface expression of System xc-. There are seven highly conserved lysine residues within xCT that are located on the cytoplasmic side of the membrane. We have created mutant forms of this construct containing single or multiple lysine to arginine mutations so that we could assess the effect of these mutations on cell surface expression of System xc-. Using biotinylation assays and immunocytochemical analysis, we have demonstrated that mutation of the N-terminal lysine residues increases the cell surface expression of the transporter. In addition, we have identified a putative ubiquitin ligase binding site in the Inbox (2)C-terminus of the transporter. Disruption of this binding site also leads to an increase in cell surface expression of the transporter. Collectively, these data suggest that System xc- is regulated by changes in its ubiquitination status such that factors which lead to diminished ubiquitination will allow for increased cell surface expression of the transporter.


This work was supported by the Hope College Biology and Chemistry Departments.

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