Co- and posttranslational translocation mechanisms direct cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator N terminus transmembrane assembly

Yun Lu, Ximing Xiong, Andrew Helm, Kabuiya Kimani, Alvina Bragin, William R. Skach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Transmembrane topology of most eukaryotic polytopic proteins is established cotranslationally at the endoplasmic reticulum membrane through the action of alternating signal and stop transfer sequences. Here we demonstrate that the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) achieves its N terminus topology through a variation of this mechanism that involves both co- and posttranslational translocation events. Using a series of defined chimeric and truncated proteins expressed in a reticulocyte lysate system, we have identified two topogenic determinants encoded within the first (TM1) and second (TM2) membrane-spanning segments of CFTR. Each sequence independently (i) directed endoplasmic reticulum targeting, (ii) translocated appropriate flanking residues, and (iii) achieved its proper membrane-spanning orientation. Signal sequence activity of TM1, however, was inefficient due to the presence of two charged residues, Glu92 and Lys95, located within its hydrophobic core. As a result, TM1 was able to direct correct topology for less than half of nascent CFTR chains. In contrast to TM1, TM2 signal sequence activity was both efficient and specific. Even in the absence of a functional TM1 signal sequence, TM2 was able to direct CFTR N terminus topology through a ribosome-dependent posttranslational mechanism. Mutating charged residues Glu92 and Lys95 to alanine improved TM1 signal sequence activity as well as the ability of TM1 to independently direct CFTR N terminus topology. Thus, a single functional signal sequence in either the first or second TM segment was sufficient for directing proper CFTR topology. These results identify two distinct and redundant translocation pathways for CFTR N terminus transmembrane assembly and support a model in which TM2 functions to ensure correct topology of CFTR chains that fail to translocate via TM1. This novel arrangement of topogenic information provides an alternative to conventional cotranslational pathways of polytopic protein biogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-576
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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