AE1 (anion exchanger 1) is a glycoprotein found in the plasma membrane of erythrocytes, where it mediates the electroneutral exchange of chloride and bicarbonate, a process important in CO2 removal from tissues. It had been previously shown that human AE1 purified from erythrocytes is covalently modified at Cys-843 in the membrane domain with palmitic acid. In this study, the role of Cys-843 in human AE1 trafficking was investigated by expressing various AE1 and Cys-843Ala (C843A) mutant constructs in transiently transfected HEK-293 cells. The AE1 C843A mutant was expressed to a similar level to AE1. The rate of N-glycan conversion from high-mannose into complex form in a glycosylation mutant (N555) of AE1 C843A, and thus the rate of trafficking from the endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi, were comparable with that of AE1 (N555). Like AE1, AE1 C843A could be biotinylated at the cell surface, indicating that a cysteine residue at position 843 is not required for cell-surface expression of the protein. The turnover rate of AE1 C843A was not significantly different from AE1. While other proteins could be palmitoylated, labelling of transiently transfected HEK-293 cells or COS7 cells with [3H]palmitic acid failed to produce any detectable AE1 palmitoylation. These results suggest that AE1 is not palmitoylated in HEK-293 or COS7 cells and can traffic to the plasma membrane.

Abbreviations used: AE, anion exchanger; C12E8, octa(ethylene glycol) dodecyl ether; CAII, carbonic anhydrase II; DMEM, Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; NHS-SS-biotin, sulpho-succinimidyl 2-(biotin-amido)ethyl-1,3-dithiopropionate; PAT, palmitoyl acyltransferase; TM, transmembrane.

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