The human proton-coupled folate transporter (hPCFT) is expressed in solid tumours and is active at pHs characterizing the tumour microenvironment. Recent attention focused on exploiting hPCFT for targeting solid tumours with novel cytotoxic anti-folates. hPCFT has 12 transmembrane domains (TMDs) and forms homo-oligomers with functional significance. The hPCFT primary sequence includes GXXXG motifs in TMD2 (G93 XXXG97) and TMD4 (G155 XXXG159). To investigate roles of these motifs in hPCFT function, stability and surface expression, we mutated glycine to leucine to generate single or multiple substitution mutants. Only the G93L and G159L mutants preserved substantial [3H]methotrexate (Mtx) transport when expressed in hPCFT-null (R1-11) HeLa cells. Transport activity of the glycine-to-leucine mutants correlated with surface hPCFT by surface biotinylation and confocal microscopy with ECFP∗-tagged hPCFTs, suggesting a role for GXXXG in hPCFT stability and intracellular trafficking. When co-expressed in R1-11 cells, haemagglutinin-tagged glycine-to-leucine mutants and His10-tagged wild-type (WT) hPCFT co-associated on nickel affinity columns, suggesting that the GXXXG motifs are not directly involved in hPCFT oligomerization. This was substantiated by in situ FRET experiments with co-expressed ECFP∗- and YFP-tagged hPCFT. Molecular modelling of dimeric hPCFT structures showed juxtaposed TMDs 2, 3, 4 and 6 as potential structural interfaces between monomers. hPCFT cysteine insertion mutants in TMD3 (Q136C and L137C) and TMD6 (W213C, L214C, L224C, A227C, F228C, F230C and G231C) were expressed in R1-11 cells and cross-linked with 1,6-hexanediyl bismethanethiosulfonate, confirming TMD juxtapositions. Altogether, our results imply that TMDs 3 and 6 provide critical interfaces for formation of hPCFT oligomers, which might be facilitated by the GXXXG motifs in TMD2 and TMD4.
- Proton-coupled folate transporter