Kv1.4 and Kv1.1 potassium channel homomers have been shown to exhibit different intracellular trafficking programmes and cell-surface expression levels in cell lines: a determinant in the pore region of Kv1.4 and Kv1.1 [Zhu, Watanabe, Gomez and Thornhill (2001) J. Biol. Chem. 276, 39419–39427] and a cytoplasmic C-terminal VXXSL determinant on Kv1.4 [Li, Takimoto and Levitan (2000) J. Biol. Chem. 275, 11597–11602] have been described, which affected trafficking and cell-surface expression levels. In the present study, we examined whether trafficking pore determinants influenced any cytoplasmic C-terminal trafficking determinant. We found that removal of VXXSL from a Kv1.4 chimaera that contained the pore of Kv1.1 did not affect cell-surface trafficking. Therefore removal of the C-terminal VXXSL of Kv1.4 inhibited protein surface levels only in the presence of the Kv1.4 pore. In contrast, truncating the cytoplasmic C-terminus of Kv1.1 or truncating a Kv1.1 chimaera with the pore of Kv1.4, had little effect on surface protein levels. Furthermore, the subregion of the Kv1.4 pore trafficking determinant that was required for the inhibitory effect of VXXSL removal was mapped to a threonine residue in the deep pore region. Therefore the Kv1.4 pore determinant affected the trafficking and cell-surface levels directed by the C-terminal VXXSL determinant. Different Kv1 trafficking programmes would affect cell-surface expression levels either positively or negatively and also cell signalling. Cells may use differential trafficking programmes of membrane proteins as a post-translational mechanism to regulate surface protein levels and cell function.

Abbreviations used: CHO, Chinese-hamster ovary; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; GFP, green fluorescent protein.

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