Organic anion transport proteins (OATPs) on the basolateral surface of hepatocytes mediate uptake of a number of drugs and endogenous compounds. Previous studies showed that rat OATP1A1 (rOATP1A1) has a postsynaptic density protein, drosophila disc large tumor suppressor, zonula occludens-1 protein (PDZ) consensus binding motif at its C-terminus and binds to PDZ domain containing 1 (PDZK1), which is required for its cell-surface localization. PDZK1 associates with rOATP1A1-containing endocytic vesicles within cells, mediating recruitment of motor proteins required for microtubule-based trafficking to the plasma membrane. rOATP1A4 also traffics to the plasma membrane, although it lacks a PDZ binding consensus sequence. The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that trafficking of rOATP1A4 to the plasma membrane requires its direct interaction with rOATP1A1 resulting in a complex that traffics through the cell in common subcellular vesicles in which the cytosolic tail of rOATP1A1 is bound to PDZK1. We found that 74% of rOATP1A4-containing rat liver endocytic vesicles (n = 12,044) also contained rOATP1A1. Studies in transfected HEK293 cells showed surface localization of rOATP1A1 only when coexpressed with PDZK1 whereas rOATP1A4 required coexpression with rOATP1A1 and PDZK1. Studies in stably transfected HeLa cells that constitutively expressed PDZK1 showed that coexpression of rOATP1A4 with rOATP1A1 resulted in more rapid appearance of rOATP1A4 on the plasma membrane and faster maturation to its fully glycosylated form. Similar results were observed on immunofluorescence analysis of single cells. Immunoprecipitation of rat liver or transfected HeLa cell lysates with rOATP1A1 antibody specifically co-immunoprecipitated rOATP1A4 as determined by western blotting. Conclusion: These studies indicate that optimal rOATP1A4 trafficking to the cell surface is dependent upon coexpression and interaction with rOATP1A1. As rOATP1A1 binds to the chaperone protein, PDZK1, rOATP1A4 functionally hitchhikes through the cell with this complex.
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