An endosomal syntaxin and the AP-3 complex are required for formation and maturation of candidate lysosome-related secretory organelles (mucocysts) in Tetrahymena thermophila

Mol Biol Cell. 2017 Jun 1;28(11):1551-1564. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E17-01-0018. Epub 2017 Apr 5.


The ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila synthesizes large secretory vesicles called mucocysts. Mucocyst biosynthesis shares features with dense core granules (DCGs) in animal cells, including proteolytic processing of cargo proteins during maturation. However, other molecular features have suggested relatedness to lysosome-related organelles (LROs). LROs, which include diverse organelles in animals, are formed via convergence of secretory and endocytic trafficking. Here we analyzed Tetrahymena syntaxin 7-like 1 (Stx7l1p), a Qa-SNARE whose homologues in other lineages are linked with vacuoles/LROs. Stx7l1p is targeted to both immature and mature mucocysts and is essential in mucocyst formation. In STX7L1-knockout cells, the two major classes of mucocyst cargo proteins localize independently, accumulating in largely nonoverlapping vesicles. Thus initial formation of immature mucocysts involves heterotypic fusion, in which a subset of mucocyst proteins is delivered via an endolysosomal compartment. Further, we show that subsequent maturation requires AP-3, a complex widely implicated in LRO formation. Knockout of the µ-subunit gene does not impede delivery of any known mucocyst cargo but nonetheless arrests mucocyst maturation. Our data argue that secretory organelles in ciliates may represent a new class of LROs and reveal key roles of an endosomal syntaxin and AP-3 in the assembly of this complex compartment.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Exocytosis / genetics
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Qa-SNARE Proteins / metabolism*
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / genetics
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / metabolism*


  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Qa-SNARE Proteins