The thiazide-sensitive sodium chloride cotransporter, NCC, is the major NaCl transport protein in the distal convoluted tubule (DCT). The transport activity of NCC can be regulated by phosphorylation, but knowledge of modulation of NCC trafficking by phosphorylation is limited. In this study, we generated novel tetracycline-inducible Madin-Darby canine kidney type I (MDCKI) cell lines expressing NCC to examine the role of NCC phosphorylation and ubiquitylation on NCC endocytosis. In MDCKI-NCC cells, NCC was highly glycosylated at molecular weights consistent with NCC monomers and dimers. NCC constitutively cycles to the apical plasma membrane of MDCKI-NCC cells, with 20-30% of the membrane pool of NCC internalized within 30 min. The use of dynasore, PitStop2, methyl-β-cyclodextrin, nystatin, and filipin (specific inhibitors of either clathrin-dependent or -independent endocytosis) demonstrated that NCC is internalized via a clathrin-mediated pathway. Reduction of endocytosis resulted in greater levels of NCC in the plasma membrane. Immunogold electron microscopy confirmed the association of NCC with the clathrin-mediated internalization pathway in rat DCT cells. Compared with controls, inducing phosphorylation of NCC via low chloride treatment or mimicking phosphorylation by replacing Thr-53, Thr-58, and Ser-71 residues with Asp resulted in increased membrane abundance and reduced rates of NCC internalization. NCC ubiquitylation was lowest in the conditions with greatest NCC phosphorylation, thus providing a mechanism for the reduced endocytosis. In conclusion, our data support a model where NCC is constitutively cycled to the plasma membrane, and upon stimulation, it can be phosphorylated to both increase NCC activity and decrease NCC endocytosis, together increasing NaCl transport in the DCT.
Keywords: Endocytosis; Epithelium; Phosphorylation; Plasma Membrane; Trafficking; Ubiquitylation.