Lenz microphthalmia syndrome (LMS) is a genetically heterogeneous X-linked disorder characterised by microphthalmia/anophthalmia, skeletal abnormalities, genitourinary malformations, and anomalies of the digits, ears, and teeth. Intellectual disability and seizure disorders are seen in about 60% of affected males. To date, no gene has been identified for LMS in the microphthalmia syndrome 1 locus (MCOPS1). In this study, we aim to find the disease-causing gene for this condition.
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives with diverse biological functions. Both natural and artificial retinoids have been used as therapeutic reagents to treat human diseases, but not all retinoid actions are understood mechanistically. Plasma retinol binding protein (RBP) is the principal and specific carrier of vitamin A in the blood. STRA6 is the membrane receptor for RBP that mediates cellular vitamin A uptake. The effects of retinoids or related compounds on the receptors vitamin A uptake activity and its catalytic activities are not well understood. In this study, we dissected the membrane receptor-mediated vitamin A uptake mechanism using various retinoids. We show that a subset of retinoids strongly stimulates STRA6-mediated vitamin A release from holo-RBP. STRA6 also catalyzes the exchange of retinol in RBP with certain retinoids. The effect of retinoids on STRA6 is highly isomer-specific. This study provides unique insights into the RBP receptors mechanism and reveals that the vitamin A transport machinery can be a target of retinoid-based drugs.
Vitamin A is essential for vision and the growth/differentiation of almost all human organs. Plasma retinol binding protein (RBP) is the principle and specific carrier of vitamin A in the blood. Here we describe an optimized technique to produce and purify holo-RBP and two real-time monitoring techniques to study the transport of vitamin A by the high-affinity RBP receptor STRA6. The first technique makes it possible to produce a large quantity of high quality holo-RBP (100%-loaded with retinol) for vitamin A transport assays. High quality RBP is essential for functional assays because misfolded RBP releases vitamin A readily and bacterial contamination in RBP preparation can cause artifacts. Real-time monitoring techniques like electrophysiology have made critical contributions to the studies of membrane transport. The RBP receptor-mediated retinol transport has not been analyzed in real time until recently. The second technique described here is the real-time analysis of STRA6-catalyzed retinol release or loading. The third technique is real-time analysis of STRA6-catalyzed retinol transport from holo-RBP to cellular retinol binding protein I (CRBP-I). These techniques provide high sensitivity and resolution in revealing RBP receptors vitamin A uptake mechanism.
Vitamin A and its derivatives (retinoids) play diverse and crucial functions from embryogenesis to adulthood and are used as therapeutic agents in human medicine for eye and skin diseases, infections and cancer. Plasma retinol binding protein (RBP) is the principal and specific vitamin A carrier in the blood and binds vitamin A at 1?1 ratio. STRA6 is the high-affinity membrane receptor for RBP and mediates cellular vitamin A uptake. STRA6 null mice have severely depleted vitamin A reserves for vision and consequently have vision loss, even under vitamin A sufficient conditions. STRA6 null humans have a wide range of severe pathological phenotypes in many organs including the eye, brain, heart and lung. Known membrane transport mechanisms involve transmembrane pores that regulate the transport of the substrate (e.g., the gating of ion channels). STRA6 represents a new type of membrane receptor. How this receptor interacts with its transport substrate vitamin A and the functions of its nine transmembrane domains are still completely unknown. These questions are critical to understanding the molecular basis of STRA6s activities and its regulation. We employ acute chemical modification to introduce chemical side chains to STRA6 in a site-specific manner. We found that modifications with specific chemicals at specific positions in or near the transmembrane domains of this receptor can almost completely suppress its vitamin A transport activity. These experiments provide the first evidence for the existence of a transmembrane pore, analogous to the pore of ion channels, for this new type of cell-surface receptor.
Cells are known to take up molecules through membrane transport mechanisms such as active transport, channels, and facilitated transport. We report here a new membrane transport mechanism that employs neither cellular energy like active transport nor a preexisting electrochemical gradient of the free substrate like channels or facilitated transport. Through this mechanism, cells take up vitamin A bound with high affinity to retinol binding protein (RBP) in the blood. This mechanism is mediated by the RBP receptor STRA6, which defines a new type of cell-surface receptor. STRA6 is essential for the proper functioning of multiple human organs, but the mechanisms that enable and control its cellular vitamin A uptake activity are unknown. We found that STRA6-mediated vitamin A uptake is tightly coupled to specific intracellular retinoid storage proteins, but no single intracellular protein is absolutely required for its transport activity. By developing sensitive real-time monitoring techniques, we found that STRA6 is not only a membrane receptor but also catalyzes vitamin A release from RBP. However, vitamin A released from RBP by STRA6 inhibits further vitamin A release by STRA6 unless specific intracellular retinoid storage proteins relieve this inhibition. This mechanism is responsible for its coupling to intracellular storage proteins. The coupling of uptake to storage provides high specificity in cellular uptake of vitamin A and prevents the excessive accumulation of free vitamin A. We have also identified a robust small-molecule-based technique to specifically stimulate cellular vitamin A uptake. This technique has implications in treating human diseases.
Vitamin A is essential for diverse aspects of life ranging from embryogenesis to the proper functioning of most adult organs. Its derivatives (retinoids) have potent biological activities such as regulating cell growth and differentiation. Plasma retinol-binding protein (RBP) is the specific vitamin A carrier protein in the blood that binds to vitamin A with high affinity and delivers it to target organs. A large amount of evidence has accumulated over the past decades supporting the existence of a cell-surface receptor for RBP that mediates cellular vitamin A uptake. Using an unbiased strategy, this specific cell-surface RBP receptor has been identified as STRA6, a multitransmembrane domain protein with previously unknown function. STRA6 is not homologous to any protein of known function and represents a new type of cell-surface receptor. Consistent with the diverse functions of vitamin A, STRA6 is widely expressed in embryonic development and in adult organ systems. Mutations in human STRA6 are associated with severe pathological phenotypes in many organs such as the eye, brain, heart, and lung. STRA6 binds to RBP with high affinity and mediates vitamin A uptake into cells. This review summarizes the history of the RBP receptor research, its expression in the context of known functions of vitamin A in distinct human organs, structure/function analysis of this new type of membrane receptor, pertinent questions regarding its very existence, and its potential implication in treating human diseases.
Microphthalmia, anophthalmia, and coloboma (MAC) are structural congenital eye malformations that cause a significant proportion of childhood visual impairments. Several disease genes have been identified but do not account for all MAC cases, suggesting that additional risk loci exist. We used single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) homozygosity mapping (HM) and targeted next-generation sequencing to identify the causative mutation for autosomal recessive isolated colobomatous microanophthalmia (MCOPCB) in a consanguineous Irish Traveller family. We identified a double-nucleotide polymorphism (g.1157G>A and g.1156G>A; p.G304K) in STRA6 that was homozygous in all of the MCOPCB patients. The STRA6 p.G304K mutation was subsequently detected in additional MCOPCB patients, including one individual with Matthew-Wood syndrome (MWS; MCOPS9). STRA6 encodes a transmembrane receptor involved in vitamin A uptake, a process essential to eye development and growth. We have shown that the G304K mutant STRA6 protein is mislocalized and has severely reduced vitamin A uptake activity. Furthermore, we reproduced the MCOPCB phenotype in a zebrafish disease model by inhibiting retinoic acid (RA) synthesis, suggesting that diminished RA levels account for the eye malformations in STRA6 p.G304K patients. The current study demonstrates that STRA6 mutations can cause isolated eye malformations in addition to the congenital anomalies observed in MWS.
STRA6 is a multitransmembrane domain protein that was recently identified as the cell-surface receptor for plasma retinol-binding protein (RBP), the vitamin A carrier protein in the blood. STRA6 binds to RBP with high affinity and mediates cellular uptake of vitamin A from RBP. It is not homologous to any known receptors, transporters, and channels, and it represents a new class of membrane transport protein. Consistent with the diverse physiological functions of vitamin A, STRA6 is widely expressed in diverse adult organs and throughout embryonic development. Mutations in human STRA6 that abolish its vitamin A uptake activity cause severe pathological phenotypes in many human organs including the eye, brain, lung, and heart. This chapter describes functional assays for STRA6 in live cells and on cellular membranes. These assays can be employed to study the mechanism of this new membrane transport mechanism and its roles in the physiology and pathology of many organs.
Light is both the ultimate energy source for most organisms and a rich information source. Vitamin A-based chromophore was initially used in harvesting light energy, but has become the most widely used light sensor throughout evolution from unicellular to multicellular organisms. Vitamin A-based photoreceptor proteins are called opsins and have been used for billions of years for sensing light for vision or the equivalent of vision. All vitamin A-based light sensors for vision in the animal kingdom are G-protein coupled receptors, while those in unicellular organisms are light-gated channels. This first major switch in evolution was followed by two other major changes: the switch from bistable to monostable pigments for vision and the expansion of vitamin As biological functions. Vitamin As new functions such as regulating cell growth and differentiation from embryogenesis to adult are associated with increased toxicity with its random diffusion. In contrast to bistable pigments which can be regenerated by light, monostable pigments depend on complex enzymatic cycles for regeneration after every photoisomerization event. Here we discuss vitamin A functions and transport in the context of the natural history of vitamin A-based light sensors and propose that the expanding functions of vitamin A and the choice of monostable pigments are the likely evolutionary driving forces for precise, efficient, and sustained vitamin A transport.
Vitamin A has diverse biological functions and is essential for human survival. STRA6 is the high-affinity membrane receptor for plasma retinol binding protein (RBP), the principle and specific carrier of vitamin A (retinol) in the blood. It was previously shown that STRA6 couples to lecithin retinol acyltransferase (LRAT) and cellular retinol binding protein I (CRBP-I), but poorly to CRBP-II, for retinol uptake from holo-RBP. STRA6 catalyzes both retinol release from holo-RBP, which is responsible for its retinol uptake activity, and the loading of free retinol into apo-RBP, which can cause retinol efflux. Although STRA6-catalyzed retinol efflux into apo-RBP can theoretically deplete cells of retinoid, it is unclear to what extent this efflux happens and in what context. We show here that STRA6 can couple strongly to both CRBP-I and CRBP-II for retinol efflux to apo-RBP. Strikingly, pure apo-RBP can cause almost complete depletion of retinol taken up by CRBP-I in a STRA6-dependent manner. However, if STRA6 encounters both holo-RBP and apo-RBP (as in blood), holo-RBP blocks STRA6-mediated retinol efflux by competing with apo-RBPs binding to STRA6 and by counteracting retinol efflux with influx. We also found that STRA6 catalyzes efficient retinol exchange between intracellular CRBP-I and extracellular RBP, even in the presence of holo-RBP. STRA6s retinol exchange activity may serve to refresh the intracellular retinoid pool. This exchange is also a previously unknown function of CRBP-I and distinguishes CRBP-I from LRAT.
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