The OAT (organic anion transporter) family mediates the absorption, distribution and excretion of a diverse array of environmental toxins and clinically important drugs. OAT dysfunction significantly contributes to renal, hepatic, neurological and fetal toxicity and disease. As a first step to establish the topological model of hOAT1 (human OAT1), we investigated the external loops and the cellular orientation of the N- and the C-termini of this transporter. Combined approaches of immunofluorescence studies and site-directed chemical labelling were used for such purpose. Immunofluorescence microscopy of Myc-tagged hOAT1 expressed in cultured cells identified that both the N- and the C-termini of the transporter were located in the cytoplasm. Replacement of Lys59 in the predicted extracellular loop I with arginine resulted in a mutant (K59R), which was largely inaccessible for labelling by membrane-impermeable NHS (N-hydroxysuccinimido)-SS (dithio)-biotin present in the extracellular medium. This result suggests that loop I faces outside of the cell membrane. A single lysine residue introduced into putative extracellular loops III, V and VI of mutant K59R, which is devoid of extracellular lysine, reacted readily with membrane-impermeable NHS-SS-biotin, suggesting that these putative extracellular loops are in the extracellular domains of the protein. These studies provided the first experimental evidence on the extracellular loops and the cellular orientation of the N- and the C-termini of hOAT1.

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