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Open Access Research article

Hydrophobic profiles of the tail anchors in SLMAP dictate subcellular targeting

Joseph T Byers, Rosa M Guzzo, Maysoon Salih and Balwant S Tuana*

Author affiliations

Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, 451 Smyth Road, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M5, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2009, 10:48  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-10-48

Published: 19 June 2009



Tail anchored (TA) membrane proteins target subcellular structures via a C-terminal transmembrane domain and serve prominent roles in membrane fusion and vesicle transport. Sarcolemmal Membrane Associated Protein (SLMAP) possesses two alternatively spliced tail anchors (TA1 or TA2) but their specificity of subcellular targeting remains unknown.


TA1 or TA2 can direct SLMAP to reticular structures including the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), whilst TA2 directs SLMAP additionally to the mitochondria. Despite the general structural similarity of SLMAP to other vesicle trafficking proteins, we found no evidence for its localization with the vesicle transport machinery or a role in vesicle transport. The predicted transmembrane region of TA2 is flanked on either side by a positively charged amino acid and is itself less hydrophobic than the transmembrane helix present in TA1. Substitution of the positively charged amino acids, in the regions flanking the transmembrane helix of TA2, with leucine did not alter its subcellular targeting. The targeting of SLMAP to the mitochondria was dependent on the hydrophobic nature of TA2 since targeting of SLMAP-TA2 was prevented by the substitution of leucine (L) for moderately hydrophobic amino acid residues within the transmembrane region. The SLMAP-TA2-4L mutant had a hydrophobic profile that was comparable to that of SLMAP-TA1 and had identical targeting properties to SLMAP-TA1.


Thus the overall hydrophobicity of the two alternatively spliced TAs in SLMAP determines its subcellular targeting and TA2 predominantly directs SLMAP to the mitochondira where it may serve roles in the function of this organelle.