Many solute transporters are heterodimers composed of non-glycosylated catalytic and glycosylated accessory subunits. These transporters are specifically polarized to the apical or basolateral membranes of epithelia, but this polarity may vary to fulfill tissue-specific functions. To date, the mechanisms regulating the tissue-specific polarity of heteromeric transporters remain largely unknown. Here, we investigated the sorting signals that determine the polarity of three members of the proton-coupled monocarboxylate transporter (MCT) family, MCT1, MCT3 and MCT4, and their accessory subunit CD147. We show that MCT3 and MCT4 harbor strong redundant basolateral sorting signals (BLSS) in their C-terminal cytoplasmic tails that can direct fusion proteins with the apical marker p75 to the basolateral membrane. In contrast, MCT1 lacks a BLSS and its polarity is dictated by CD147, which contains a weak BLSS that can direct Tac, but not p75 to the basolateral membrane. Knockdown experiments in MDCK cells indicated that basolateral sorting of MCTs was clathrin-dependent but clathrin adaptor AP1B-independent. Our results explain the consistently basolateral localization of MCT3 and MCT4 and the variable localization of MCT1 in different epithelia. They introduce a new paradigm for the sorting of heterodimeric transporters in which a hierarchy of apical and BLSS in the catalytic and/or accessory subunits regulates their tissue-specific polarity.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.