GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

William R. Kobertz, PhD


Potassium Channels, Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated, Glycosylation, N-Glycosyl Hydrolases


KCNE1 (E1) peptide is the founding member of the KCNE family (1-5), which is a class of type I transmembrane ß-subunits. KCNE1 peptides assemble with and modulate the gating, ion conducting properties and pharmacology of a variety of voltage-gated K+ channel a-subunits, including KCNQ1 (Q1). Mutations that interfere with the function of either E1 and/or Q1 and disrupt the assembly and trafficking of KCNE1- KCNQ1 channel complexes give rise to diseases such as Romano-Ward (RW) and Jervell Lange Nielsen Syndrome (JLNS), two different forms of Long QT Syndrome (LQTS).

Using enzymatic deglycosylation assays, immunofluorescence techniques and quantitative cell surface labeling, we showed that KCNE1 peptides are retained in the early stages of the secretory pathway as immaturely N-linked glycosylated proteins. KCNE1 co-assembly with KCNQ1 leads to E1 progression through the secretory pathway and glycan maturation, resulting in cell surface expression.

N-linked glycosylation of some membrane proteins is critical for proper folding, co-assembly and subsequent trafficking through the biosynthetic pathway. Previous studies have shown that genetic mutations that disrupt one of the two N-linked glycosylation sites on KCNE family members lead to LQTS (T7I, KCNE1 and T8A, KCNE2) (Schulze-Bahr et al., 1997; Sesti et al., 2000a; Park et al., 2003). Having confirmed that KCNE1 proteins acquire N-linked glycans, we examined the kinetics and efficiency of N-linked glycan addition to KCNE1. We showed that KCNE1 has two distinct N-linked glycosylation sites. The N-terminal sequon is a traditional co-translational site. The internal sequon (which is only ~ 20 residues away from the N-terminal sequon) acquires N-linked glycans primarily after protein synthesis (post-translationally). Surprisingly, mutations that prevent N-glycosylation at the cotranslational site also reduce the glycosylation efficiency of post-translational glycosylation at the internal sequon, resulting in a large population of unglycosylated KCNE1 peptides that are retained in the early stages of the secretory pathway and do not reach the cell surface with their cognate K+ channel. We showed that KCNE1 post-translational N-glycosylation in the endoplasmic reticulum is a cellular mechanism that ensures E1 proteins acquire the maximal number of glycans needed for proper channel assembly and trafficking. Our findings provide a new biogenic mechanism for human disease by showing that the JLNS mutation, T7I, not only inhibits glycosylation of the N-terminal sequon, but also indirectly prevents the glycosylation of the internal sequon, giving rise to a large population of assembly incompetent hypoglycosylated KCNE1 peptides.

To further investigate the two N-linked glycosylation sites on KCNE1, we generated structure-function deletion scans of KCNE1 and performed positional glycosylation scanning mutagenesis. We examined the glycosylation pattern of glycosylation mutants in an effort to define the glycosylation window important for proper KCNE1 assembly and trafficking. Our findings suggested a nine amino acid periodicity to serve as a desirable glycosylation site and a better substrate for N-glycosylation.

Appendix II shows work on the characterization of the C-terminally HA-tagged KCNE1 protein, which was used throughout the experiments presented in Chapter II, Chapter III and Chapter IV. Analysis of the C-terminally HA-tagged KCNE1 protein revealed that in heterologous expression systems KCNE1 had an internal translational start site, a methionine at position 27. A proteolytic cleavage site was also identified at the arginine cluster spanning residues 32 through 38 bearing the two known Long QT mutations (R32H and R36H) (Splawski et al., 2000; Napolitano et al., 2005).

My work in Professor Craig C. Mello’s lab during the first four years of my graduate study is presented in Appendix I. The highly conserved Wnt/Wingless glycoproteins regulate many aspects of animal development. Wnt signaling specifies endoderm fate by controlling the fate of EMS blastomere daughters in 4-cell stage Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. A suppressor genetic screen was performed using two temperature sensitive alleles of mom-2/Wnt to identify additional regulators of the Wnt/Wingless signaling pathway during C. elegans endoderm specification. Five intragenic suppressors and three extragenic suppressors of mom-2/Wnt embryonic lethality were identified. We cloned ifg-1, eIF4G homologue, as one of the extragenic suppressors suggesting an intriguing connection between the Wnt signaling pathway and the translational machinery.



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