Genetic analysis of sorting nexins 1 and 2 reveals a redundant and essential function in mice

Mol Biol Cell. 2002 Oct;13(10):3588-600. doi: 10.1091/mbc.e02-03-0145.


Sorting nexins 1 (Snx1) and 2 (Snx2) are homologues of the yeast gene VPS5 that is required for proper endosome-to-Golgi trafficking. The prevailing thought is that Vps5p is a component of a retrograde trafficking complex called the retromer. Genetic and biochemical evidence suggest mammals may have similar complexes, but their biological role is unknown. Furthermore, if SNX1 and SNX2 belong to such complexes, it is not known whether they act together or separately. Herein, we show that mice lacking SNX1 or SNX2 are viable and fertile, whereas embryos deficient in both proteins arrest at midgestation. These results demonstrate that SNX1 and SNX2 have a highly redundant and necessary function in the mouse. The phenotype of Snx1(-/-);Snx2(-/-) embryos is very similar to that of embryos lacking another retromer homologue, Hbeta58. This finding suggests that SNX1/SNX2 and Hbeta58 function in the same genetic pathway, providing additional evidence for the existence of mammalian complexes that are structurally similar to the yeast retromer. Furthermore, the viability of Snx1(-/-) and Snx2(-/-) mice demonstrates that it is not necessary for SNX1 and SNX2 to act together. Electron microscopy indicates morphological alterations of apical intracellular compartments in the Snx1(-/-);Snx2(-/-) yolk-sac visceral endoderm, suggesting SNX1 and SNX2 may be required for proper cellular trafficking. However, tetraploid aggregation experiments suggest that yolk sac defects cannot fully account for Snx1(-/-); Snx2(-/-) embryonic lethality. Furthermore, endocytosis of transferrin and low-density lipoprotein is unaffected in mutant primary embryonic fibroblasts, indicating that SNX1 and SNX2 are not essential for endocytosis in all cells. Although the two proteins demonstrate functional redundancy, Snx1(+/-);Snx2(-/-) mice display abnormalities not observed in Snx1(-/-);Snx2(+/-) mice, revealing that SNX1 and SNX2, or their genetic regulation, are not equivalent. Significantly, these studies represent the first mutations in the mammalian sorting nexin gene family and indicate that sorting nexins perform essential functions in mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / anatomy & histology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / physiology*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development*
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / genetics
  • Fetal Viability
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gene Targeting
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Morphogenesis
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / genetics
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / physiology
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins*
  • Yolk Sac / metabolism
  • Yolk Sac / ultrastructure


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • ErbB Receptors