In Vitro Characterization of the Function of ABCA1: Effects of Naturally Occurring Mutations
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The ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter, ABCA1, plays a pivotal role in reverse cholesterol transport, which is the elimination of excess sterols from peripheral cells and their transport to the liver for elimination. Early studies failed to detect significant ATPase activity, prompting the suggestion that ABCA1 was an ATP-regulated receptor, rather than an active transporter. We have provided evidence that ABCA1 can bind ATP and trap its hydrolysis product, ADP, in the presence of either ortho-vanadate or beryllium fluoride and Mg2+ or Mn2+. We have also shown that both nucleotide-binding domains (NBDs) trap nucleotide comparably, suggesting that ABCA1 is a functional ATPase. In addition, we have shown that ABCA1 can directly transport 25-hydroxycholesterol (25-OHC) in an ATP-dependent manner using a membrane vesicle uptake assay, and can do so when the physiological substrate acceptor apoA-I is replaced with BSA as a non-specific binding protein. Although more than 50 naturally occurring missense mutations and polymorphisms in ABCA1 have been identified in individuals with HDL-C levels within the lowest 5th percentile of the general population, the extent to which many of these mutations affect ABCA1 function is not known and cannot be predicted. Naturally occurring extracellular loop (ECL) mutations W590S and C1477R have both been shown to effectively eliminate the ability to mediate lipid efflux, despite the fact that the W590S mutant protein retains the ability to bind apoA-I. We show that neither mutant can transport nor efflux 25-OHC, whether in the presence of apoA-I or BSA, despite apparently full retention of the ability to bind and trap nucleotide. This suggests that these two ECL mutations inhibit transport by a mechanism that is independent of their effect on apoA-I binding. By introduction of naturally occurring mutations in the NBDs, we show that although some mutations associated with Tangier Disease, such as N935S, essentially eliminate nucleotide trapping and substrate translocation, other polymorphisms such as L1026P and T2073A associated with low HDL-C, appear to be fully functional. Lastly, we observed differences in the behaviour of both wild-type and mutant forms of ABCA1-GFP depending on whether they were expressed in insect or mammalian cell lines.