Large cytoplasmic domains (CD) are a common feature among integral membrane proteins. In virtually all cases, these CD have a function (e.g., binding cytoskeleton or regulatory factors) separate from that of the membrane domain (MD). Strong associations between CD and MD are rare. Here we studied SLC4A11, a membrane transport protein of corneal endothelial cells, the mutations of which cause genetic corneal blindness. SLC4A11 has a 41-kDa CD and a 57-kDa integral MD. One disease-causing mutation in the CD, R125H, manifests a catalytic defect, suggesting a role of the CD in transport function. Expressed in HEK-293 cells without the CD, MD-SLC4A11 is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum, indicating a folding defect. Replacement of CD-SLC4A11 with green fluorescent protein did not rescue MD-SLC4A11, suggesting some specific role of CD-SLC4A11. Homology modeling revealed that the structure of CD-SLC4A11 is similar to that of the Cl(-)/HCO3(-) exchange protein AE1 (SLC4A1) CD. Fusion to CD-AE1 partially rescued MD-SLC4A11 to the cell surface, suggesting that the structure of CD-AE1 is similar to that of CD-SLC4A11. The CD-AE1-MD-SLC4a11 chimera, however, had no functional activity. We conclude that CD-SLC4A11 has an indispensable role in the transport function of SLC4A11. CD-SLC4A11 forms insoluble precipitates when expressed in bacteria, suggesting that the domain cannot fold properly when expressed alone. Consistent with a strong association between CD-SLC4A11 and MD-SLC4A11, these domains specifically associate when coexpressed in HEK-293 cells. We conclude that SLC4A11 is a rare integral membrane protein in which the CD has strong associations with the integral MD, which contributes to membrane transport function.
Keywords: SLC4A11; corneal dystrophy; cytoplasmic domain; membrane domain; protein misfolding.
Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society.