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1.  Ubiquitin-dependent folding of the Wnt signaling coreceptor LRP6 
eLife  null;5:e19083.
Many membrane proteins fold inefficiently and require the help of enzymes and chaperones. Here we reveal a novel folding assistance system that operates on membrane proteins from the cytosolic side of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). We show that folding of the Wnt signaling coreceptor LRP6 is promoted by ubiquitination of a specific lysine, retaining it in the ER while avoiding degradation. Subsequent ER exit requires removal of ubiquitin from this lysine by the deubiquitinating enzyme USP19. This ubiquitination-deubiquitination is conceptually reminiscent of the glucosylation-deglucosylation occurring in the ER lumen during the calnexin/calreticulin folding cycle. To avoid infinite futile cycles, folded LRP6 molecules undergo palmitoylation and ER export, while unsuccessfully folded proteins are, with time, polyubiquitinated on other lysines and targeted to degradation. This ubiquitin-dependent folding system also controls the proteostasis of other membrane proteins as CFTR and anthrax toxin receptor 2, two poor folders involved in severe human diseases.
eLife digest
Proteins carry out almost every process that happens inside a cell. Like all machines, their ability to work properly depends on their three-dimensional shape and structure. To make proteins, building blocks called amino acids are first assembled into a string that, like wool in a sweater, needs to be knitted into the final three-dimensional structure. How proteins reach their 3D structure is called “folding”, and when protein folding fails, or is not so efficient, it can cause very severe diseases.
Protein folding is not as nicely progressive as knitting a sweater: it is more like putting all the wool into a big messy blob that then suddenly turns into a protein with the right three-dimensional structure. Cells have machinery that can detect messy-looking molecules and destroy them. Therefore, new proteins need to be hidden from this machinery until they have finished folding.
A human protein called LRP6 is found on the surface of cells and it plays an important role in allowing cells to communicate with each other. Like many other proteins, LRP6 is produced inside the cell in a compartment called the endoplasmic reticulum and is then exported to the cell surface. In 2008, a team of researchers found that LRP6 is modified in a particular way known as S-palmitoylation before it leaves the endoplasmic reticulum. This suggested that there is a system that helps this protein to fold correctly.
Here Perrody, Abrami et al. – including some of the researchers from the previous work – used biochemical techniques to investigate how LRP6 folds. The experiments show that another type of protein modification that involves attaching a molecule called ubiquitin to LRP6 promotes this protein’s folding. Once the protein is folded, the ubiquitin is removed from LRP6 by an enzyme called USP19. Further experiments show that this system also helps to ensure that two other important proteins fold correctly.
The next steps following on from this work are to identify the other molecules involved in this protein folding system. A future challenge is to find out how this system protects new proteins from being degraded while they are still folding.
PMCID: PMC5102578  PMID: 27751231
transmembrane; folding; endoplasmic; ubiquitin; ERAD; Human
2.  Model-Driven Understanding of Palmitoylation Dynamics: Regulated Acylation of the Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone Calnexin 
PLoS Computational Biology  2016;12(2):e1004774.
Cellular functions are largely regulated by reversible post-translational modifications of proteins which act as switches. Amongst these, S-palmitoylation is unique in that it confers hydrophobicity. Due to technical difficulties, the understanding of this modification has lagged behind. To investigate principles underlying dynamics and regulation of palmitoylation, we have here studied a key cellular protein, the ER chaperone calnexin, which requires dual palmitoylation for function. Apprehending the complex inter-conversion between single-, double- and non- palmitoylated species required combining experimental determination of kinetic parameters with extensive mathematical modelling. We found that calnexin, due to the presence of two cooperative sites, becomes stably acylated, which not only confers function but also a remarkable increase in stability. Unexpectedly, stochastic simulations revealed that palmitoylation does not occur soon after synthesis, but many hours later. This prediction guided us to find that phosphorylation actively delays calnexin palmitoylation in resting cells. Altogether this study reveals that cells synthesize 5 times more calnexin than needed under resting condition, most of which is degraded. This unused pool can be mobilized by preventing phosphorylation or increasing the activity of the palmitoyltransferase DHHC6.
Author Summary
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the largest intracellular organelle of mammalian cells. It is responsible for many fundamental cellular functions, such as folding, quality control of membrane and secreted protein, lipid biosynthesis, control of apoptosis and calcium storage. Recent studies have shown that many ER membrane proteins are lipid modified. We therefore hypothesized that palmitoyltransferases, the enzymes responsible for this modifications, act as a regulator of the mammalian ER, controlling the function of a network of key proteins through reversible acylation. In this work we combine computational methods with experimental determination of parameters to study the mechanisms and properties of ER palmitoylation, using as a model the palmitoylation of the ER protein calnexin. The systematic analysis of the mathematical model, built and calibrated with the help of experimental data, shows that Calnexin palmitoylation leads to a 9-fold increase in half-life and that a long delay separates synthesis from palmitoylation in unstimulated cells. Surprisingly during this delay, 75% of synthesized calnexin is degraded before being palmitoylated. We hypothesize that this unexpected apparent inefficiency is a design principle that provides the cell with a means to post-translationally tune the calnexin content.
PMCID: PMC4765739  PMID: 26900856
3.  SwissPalm: Protein Palmitoylation database 
F1000Research  2015;4:261.
Protein S-palmitoylation is a reversible post-translational modification that regulates many key biological processes, although the full extent and functions of protein S-palmitoylation remain largely unexplored. Recent developments of new chemical methods have allowed the establishment of palmitoyl-proteomes of a variety of cell lines and tissues from different species.  As the amount of information generated by these high-throughput studies is increasing, the field requires centralization and comparison of this information. Here we present SwissPalm (, our open, comprehensive, manually curated resource to study protein S-palmitoylation. It currently encompasses more than 5000 S-palmitoylated protein hits from seven species, and contains more than 500 specific sites of S-palmitoylation. SwissPalm also provides curated information and filters that increase the confidence in true positive hits, and integrates predictions of S-palmitoylated cysteine scores, orthologs and isoform multiple alignments. Systems analysis of the palmitoyl-proteome screens indicate that 10% or more of the human proteome is susceptible to S-palmitoylation. Moreover, ontology and pathway analyses of the human palmitoyl-proteome reveal that key biological functions involve this reversible lipid modification. Comparative analysis finally shows a strong crosstalk between S-palmitoylation and other post-translational modifications. Through the compilation of data and continuous updates, SwissPalm will provide a powerful tool to unravel the global importance of protein S-palmitoylation.
PMCID: PMC4544385  PMID: 26339475
S-palmitoylation; palmitoyl-proteomes; database; proteomics; Acyl-biotin exchange; Acyl-RAC
4.  Hijacking multivesicular bodies enables long-term and exosome-mediated long-distance action of anthrax toxin 
Cell reports  2013;5(4):10.1016/j.celrep.2013.10.019.
Anthrax Lethal Toxin is a classical AB-toxin comprised of two components, Protective Antigen (PA) and Lethal Factor (LF). Here we show that following assembly and endocytosis, PA forms a channel that translocates LF, not only into the cytosol, but also into the lumen of endosomal intraluminal vesicles (ILVs). These ILVs can fuse and release LF into the cytosol, where LF can proteolyze and disable host targets. We find that LF can persist in ILVs for days, fully sheltered from proteolytic degradation, both in vitro and in vivo. During this time ILV-localized LF can be transmitted to daughter cells upon cell division. In addition, LF-containing ILVs can be delivered to the extracellular medium as exosomes. These can deliver LF to the cytosol of naïve cells in a manner that is independent of the typical anthrax toxin-receptor trafficking pathway, while being sheltered from neutralizing extracellular factors of the immune system.
PMCID: PMC3866279  PMID: 24239351
5.  Hyaline Fibromatosis Syndrome inducing mutations in the ectodomain of anthrax toxin receptor 2 can be rescued by proteasome inhibitors 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2011;3(4):208-221.
Hyaline Fibromatosis Syndrome (HFS) is a human genetic disease caused by mutations in the anthrax toxin receptor 2 (or cmg2) gene, which encodes a membrane protein thought to be involved in the homeostasis of the extracellular matrix. Little is known about the structure and function of the protein or the genotype–phenotype relationship of the disease. Through the analysis of four patients, we identify three novel mutants and determine their effects at the cellular level. Altogether, we show that missense mutations that map to the extracellular von Willebrand domain or the here characterized Ig-like domain of CMG2 lead to folding defects and thereby to retention of the mutated protein in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Mutations in the Ig-like domain prevent proper disulphide bond formation and are more efficiently targeted to ER-associated degradation. Finally, we show that mutant CMG2 can be rescued in fibroblasts of some patients by treatment with proteasome inhibitors and that CMG2 is then properly transported to the plasma membrane and signalling competent, identifying the ER folding and degradation pathway components as promising drug targets for HFS.
PMCID: PMC3377065  PMID: 21328543
CMG2; conformational disease; protein folding
6.  Endocytosis of the Anthrax Toxin Is Mediated by Clathrin, Actin and Unconventional Adaptors 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(3):e1000792.
The anthrax toxin is a tripartite toxin, where the two enzymatic subunits require the third subunit, the protective antigen (PA), to interact with cells and be escorted to their cytoplasmic targets. PA binds to cells via one of two receptors, TEM8 and CMG2. Interestingly, the toxin times and triggers its own endocytosis, in particular through the heptamerization of PA. Here we show that PA triggers the ubiquitination of its receptors in a β-arrestin-dependent manner and that this step is required for clathrin-mediated endocytosis. In addition, we find that endocytosis is dependent on the heterotetrameric adaptor AP-1 but not the more conventional AP-2. Finally, we show that endocytosis of PA is strongly dependent on actin. Unexpectedly, actin was also found to be essential for efficient heptamerization of PA, but only when bound to one of its 2 receptors, TEM8, due to the active organization of TEM8 into actin-dependent domains. Endocytic pathways are highly modular systems. Here we identify some of the key players that allow efficient heptamerization of PA and subsequent ubiquitin-dependent, clathrin-mediated endocytosis of the anthrax toxin.
Author Summary
Bacillus anthracis is the bacterium responsible for the anthrax disease. Its virulence is mainly due to 2 factors, the anthrax toxin and the anti-phagocytic capsule. This toxin is composed of three independent polypeptide chains. Two of these have enzymatic activity and are responsible for the effects of the toxin. The third has no activity but is absolutely required to bring the 2 enzymatic subunits into the cell where they act. If one blocks entry into the cells, one blocks the effects of these toxins, which is why it is important to understand how the toxin enters into the cell at the molecular level. Here we identified various molecules that are involved in efficiently bringing the toxin into the cell. First, we found that the actin cytoskeleton plays an important role in organizing one of the two anthrax toxin receptors at the cell surface. Second, we found a cytosolic protein, β-arrestin, that is required to modify the intracellular part of the toxin receptor, to allow uptake. Finally, we directly show, for the first time, that anthrax toxin uptake is mediated by the so-called clathrin-dependent pathway, a very modular entry pathway, but that the toxin utilizes this pathway in an unconventional way.
PMCID: PMC2832758  PMID: 20221438
7.  Hrs and SNX3 Functions in Sorting and Membrane Invagination within Multivesicular Bodies  
PLoS Biology  2008;6(9):e214.
After internalization, ubiquitinated signaling receptors are delivered to early endosomes. There, they are sorted and incorporated into the intralumenal invaginations of nascent multivesicular bodies, which function as transport intermediates to late endosomes. Receptor sorting is achieved by Hrs—an adaptor-like protein that binds membrane PtdIns3P via a FYVE motif—and then by ESCRT complexes, which presumably also mediate the invagination process. Eventually, intralumenal vesicles are delivered to lysosomes, leading to the notion that EGF receptor sorting into multivesicular bodies mediates lysosomal targeting. Here, we report that Hrs is essential for lysosomal targeting but dispensable for multivesicular body biogenesis and transport to late endosomes. By contrast, we find that the PtdIns3P-binding protein SNX3 is required for multivesicular body formation, but not for EGF receptor degradation. PtdIns3P thus controls the complementary functions of Hrs and SNX3 in sorting and multivesicular body biogenesis.
Author Summary
The cell's genetic program is modulated by extracellular signals that activate cell surface receptors and, in turn, intracellular effectors, to regulate transcription. For cells to function normally, these signals must be turned off to avoid permanent activation—a situation often associated with cancer. For many receptors, signaling is repressed, or down-regulated, in a process that first internalizes and then degrades the receptors. After receptors are removed from the cell surface into structures called early endosomes, they are selectively incorporated within vesicles that form inside the endosome. During this process, endosomal membranes are pulled away from the cytoplasm towards the endosome lumen, against the flow of intracellular membrane traffic, eventually resulting in the formation of a “multivesicular body” (vesicles within vesicles). The common view is that these intralumenal vesicles are then delivered to lysosomes, where they are degraded along with their receptor cargo. We have investigated the mechanisms responsible for the biogenesis of intralumenal vesicles in multivesicular bodies. We find that the small protein SNX3, which binds the signaling lipid phosphatidyl inositol-3-phosphate, is necessary for the formation of intralumenal vesicles, but is not involved in the degradation of the cell surface receptor for EGF. Conversely, we find that Hrs, which also binds phosphatidyl inositol-3-phosphate and mediates receptor sorting into intralumenal vesicles, is essential for lysosomal targeting but dispensable for multivesicular body biogenesis. Phosphatidyl inositol-3-phosphate thus controls the complementary functions of Hrs and SNX3 in the sorting of signaling receptors and multivesicular body biogenesis.
SNX3 plays a direct role in the formation of intralumenal vesicles of multivesicular bodies (MVBs) but is not involved in EGF receptor degradation, whereas Hrs is essential for lysosomal targeting but dispensable for MVB biogenesis. Hence, intralumenal vesicle formation in MVB biogenesis can be uncoupled from lysosomal targeting.
PMCID: PMC2528051  PMID: 18767904
8.  Receptor palmitoylation and ubiquitination regulate anthrax toxin endocytosis 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2006;172(2):309-320.
The anthrax toxin is composed of three independent polypeptide chains. Successful intoxication only occurs when heptamerization of the receptor-binding polypeptide, the protective antigen (PA), allows binding of the two enzymatic subunits before endocytosis. We show that this tailored behavior is caused by two counteracting posttranslational modifications in the cytoplasmic tail of PA receptors. The receptor is palmitoylated, and this unexpectedly prevents its association with lipid rafts and, thus, its premature ubiquitination. This second modification, which is mediated by the E3 ubiquitin ligase Cbl, only occurs in rafts and is required for rapid endocytosis of the receptor. As a consequence, cells expressing palmitoylation-defective mutant receptors are less sensitive to anthrax toxin because of a lower number of surface receptors as well as premature internalization of PA without a requirement for heptamerization.
PMCID: PMC2063559  PMID: 16401723
9.  Membrane insertion of anthrax protective antigen and cytoplasmic delivery of lethal factor occur at different stages of the endocytic pathway 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;166(5):645-651.
The protective antigen (PA) of anthrax toxin binds to a cell surface receptor, undergoes heptamerization, and binds the enzymatic subunits, the lethal factor (LF) and the edema factor (EF). The resulting complex is then endocytosed. Via mechanisms that depend on the vacuolar ATPase and require membrane insertion of PA, LF and EF are ultimately delivered to the cytoplasm where their targets reside. Here, we show that membrane insertion of PA already occurs in early endosomes, possibly only in the multivesicular regions, but that subsequent delivery of LF to the cytoplasm occurs preferentially later in the endocytic pathway and relies on the dynamics of internal vesicles of multivesicular late endosomes.
PMCID: PMC2172425  PMID: 15337774
diphtheria toxin; LBPA; ALIX; MAPK; multivesicular; COP
10.  Anthrax toxin triggers endocytosis of its receptor via a lipid raft–mediated clathrin-dependent process 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2003;160(3):321-328.
The protective antigen (PA) of the anthrax toxin binds to a cell surface receptor and thereby allows lethal factor (LF) to be taken up and exert its toxic effect in the cytoplasm. Here, we report that clustering of the anthrax toxin receptor (ATR) with heptameric PA or with an antibody sandwich causes its association to specialized cholesterol and glycosphingolipid-rich microdomains of the plasma membrane (lipid rafts). We find that although endocytosis of ATR is slow, clustering it into rafts either via PA heptamerization or using an antibody sandwich is necessary and sufficient to trigger efficient internalization and allow delivery of LF to the cytoplasm. Importantly, altering raft integrity using drugs prevented LF delivery and cleavage of cytosolic MAPK kinases, suggesting that lipid rafts could be therapeutic targets for drugs against anthrax. Moreover, we show that internalization of PA is dynamin and Eps15 dependent, indicating that the clathrin-dependent pathway is the major route of anthrax toxin entry into the cell. The present work illustrates that although the physiological role of the ATR is unknown, its trafficking properties, i.e., slow endocytosis as a monomer and rapid clathrin-mediated uptake on clustering, make it an ideal anthrax toxin receptor.
PMCID: PMC2172673  PMID: 12551953
anthrax toxin; rafts; microdomains; clustering; protective antigen
11.  Sensitivity of Polarized Epithelial Cells to the Pore-Forming Toxin Aerolysin  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(2):739-746.
Aerolysin is one of the major virulence factors produced by Aeromonas hydrophila, a human pathogen that produces deep wound infection and gastroenteritis. The toxin interacts with target mammalian cells by binding to the glycan core of glycosylphosphatidyl inositol (GPI)-anchored proteins and subsequently forms a pore in the plasma membrane. Since epithelial cells of the intestine are the primary targets of aerolysin, we investigated its effect on three types of polarized epithelial cells: Caco-2 cells, derived from human intestine; MDCK cells, a well-characterized cell line in terms of protein targeting; and FRT cells, an unusual cell line in that it targets its GPI-anchored proteins to the basolateral plasma membrane in contrast to other epithelial cells, which target them almost exclusively to the apical surface. Surprisingly, we found that all three cell types were sensitive to the toxin from both the apical and the basolateral sides. Apical sensitivity was always higher, even for FRT cells. In contrast, FRT cells were more sensitive from the basolateral than from the apical side to the related toxin Clostridium septicum alpha-toxin, which also binds to GPI-anchored proteins but lacks the lectin binding domain found in aerolysin. These observations are consistent with the notion that a shuttling mechanism involving low-affinity interactions with surface sugars allows aerolysin to gradually move toward the membrane surface, where it can finally encounter the glycan cores of GPI-anchored proteins.
PMCID: PMC145399  PMID: 12540553
12.  Entry of the Lymphogranuloma Venereum Strain of Chlamydia trachomatis into Host Cells Involves Cholesterol-Rich Membrane Domains  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(1):260-266.
Chlamydiae are bacterial pathogens which develop strictly inside the epithelial cells of their hosts. The mechanism used by chlamydiae to enter cells is not well characterized; however, it is thought to consist of a receptor-mediated process. In addition, the formation of clathrin-coated pits appears to be dispensable for chlamydiae to be internalized by host cells. Clathrin-independent endocytosis has recently been shown to occur through cholesterol-rich lipid microdomains, which are characterized by detergent insolubility. In the present study, we investigated whether these lipid domains play a role in Chlamydia trachomatis serovar L2 internalization by host cells. Our results show that after binding to HeLa cells, chlamydiae are associated with detergent-resistant lipid microdomains (DRMs), which can be isolated by fractionation of infected HeLa cells and flotation on a sucrose gradient. After internalization by HeLa cells, chlamydiae were still found in DRMs. In addition, extraction of plasma membrane cholesterol inhibited infection of HeLa cells by C. trachomatis. Many of the proteins associated with DRMs are glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins; however, our results could not identify a role for GPI-anchored proteins in the entry process. The same results were obtained for Chlamydia psittaci strain GPIC. We propose that cholesterol-rich domains participate in the entry of chlamydiae into host cells. Chlamydia binding to cholesterol-rich domains may lead to coalescence of the bacterial cells, which could trigger internalization by host cells.
PMCID: PMC143347  PMID: 12496174
13.  Role for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Membrane Cholesterol in Viral Internalization 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(20):10356-10364.
The membrane of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) virions contains high levels of cholesterol and sphingomyelin, an enrichment that is explained by the preferential budding of the virus through raft microdomains of the plasma membrane. Upon depletion of cholesterol from HIV-1 virions with methyl-β-cyclodextrin, infectivity was almost completely abolished. In contrast, this treatment had only a mild effect on the infectiousness of particles pseudotyped with the G envelope of vesicular stomatitis virus. The cholesterol-chelating compound nystatin had a similar effect. Cholesterol-depleted HIV-1 virions exhibited wild-type patterns of viral proteins and contained normal levels of cyclophilin A and glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins. Nevertheless, and although they could still bind target cells, these virions were markedly defective for internalization. These results indicate that the cholesterol present in the HIV-1 membrane plays a prominent role in the fusion process that is key to viral entry and suggest that drugs capable of disturbing the lipid composition of virions could serve as a basis for the development of microbicides.
PMCID: PMC136590  PMID: 12239312
14.  Plasma Membrane Microdomains Act as Concentration Platforms to Facilitate Intoxication by Aerolysin 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;147(1):175-184.
It has been proposed that the plasma membrane of many cell types contains cholesterol-sphingolipid–rich microdomains. Here, we analyze the role of these microdomains in promoting oligomerization of the bacterial pore-forming toxin aerolysin. Aeroly-sin binds to cells, via glycosyl phosphatidylinositol- anchored receptors, as a hydrophilic soluble protein that must polymerize into an amphipathic ring-like complex to form a pore. We first show that oligomerization can occur at >105-fold lower toxin concentration at the surface of living cells than in solution. Our observations indicate that it is not merely the number of receptors on the target cell that is important for toxin sensitivity, but their ability to associate transiently with detergent resistant microdomains. Oligomerization appears to be promoted by the fact that the toxin bound to its glycosyl phosphatidylinositol-anchored receptors, can be recruited into these microdomains, which act as concentration devices.
PMCID: PMC2164982  PMID: 10508864
aerolysin; cholesterol; microdomains; glycosyl phosphatidylinositol-anchored protein; oligomerization
15.  A Pore-forming Toxin Interacts with a GPI-anchored Protein and Causes Vacuolation of the Endoplasmic Reticulum  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1998;140(3):525-540.
In this paper, we have investigated the effects of the pore-forming toxin aerolysin, produced by Aeromonas hydrophila, on mammalian cells. Our data indicate that the protoxin binds to an 80-kD glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored protein on BHK cells, and that the bound toxin is associated with specialized plasma membrane domains, described as detergent-insoluble microdomains, or cholesterol-glycolipid “rafts.” We show that the protoxin is then processed to its mature form by host cell proteases. We propose that the preferential association of the toxin with rafts, through binding to GPI-anchored proteins, is likely to increase the local toxin concentration and thereby promote oligomerization, a step that it is a prerequisite for channel formation. We show that channel formation does not lead to disruption of the plasma membrane but to the selective permeabilization to small ions such as potassium, which causes plasma membrane depolarization. Next we studied the consequences of channel formation on the organization and dynamics of intracellular membranes. Strikingly, we found that the toxin causes dramatic vacuolation of the ER, but does not affect other intracellular compartments. Concomitantly we find that the COPI coat is released from biosynthetic membranes and that biosynthetic transport of newly synthesized transmembrane G protein of vesicular stomatitis virus is inhibited. Our data indicate that binding of proaerolysin to GPI-anchored proteins and processing of the toxin lead to oligomerization and channel formation in the plasma membrane, which in turn causes selective disorganization of early biosynthetic membrane dynamics.
PMCID: PMC2140172  PMID: 9456314

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