Rat organic anion transporting protein 1a1 (oatp1a1), a hepatocyte basolateral plasma membrane protein, mediates transport of various amphipathic compounds. Our previous studies indicated that serine phosphorylation of a single tryptic peptide inhibits its transport activity without changing its cell surface content. The site of phosphorylation is unknown and was the subject of the present study. Following immunoaffinity chromatographic purification from rat liver, oatp1a1 was subjected to trypsin digestion and MALDI-TOF. Except for predicted N-glycosylated peptides, 97% of oatp1a1 tryptic peptides were observed. A single tryptic phosphopeptide was found in the C-terminus (aa 626-647), existing in unphosphorylated or singly or doubly phosphorylated forms and sensitive to alkaline phosphatase treatment. The β-elimination reaction resulted in a mass loss of 98 or 196 Da from this peptide, and subsequent Michael addition with cysteamine increased masses by the predicated 77 and 154 Da, indicating that oatp1a1 can be singly or doubly phosphorylated at serine or threonine residues in the C-terminal sequence SSATDHT (aa 634-640). Subsequent tandem MS/MS analysis revealed that phosphorylation at S634 accounted for all singly phosphorylated peptide, while phosphorylation at S634 and S635 accounted for all doubly phosphorylated peptide. These findings identify the site of oatp1a1 phosphorylation and demonstrate that it is an ordered process, in which phosphorylation at S634 precedes that at S635. The mechanism by which phosphorylation results in loss of transport activity in hepatocytes remains to be established. Whether phosphorylation near the C-terminus inhibits C-terminal oligomerization of oatp1a1, required for normal transport function, can be speculated upon but is as yet unknown.
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