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N-Glycosylation of the alpha subunit does not influence trafficking or functional activity of the human organic solute transporter alpha/beta

Carol J Soroka*, Shuhua Xu, Albert Mennone, Ping Lam and James L Boyer

Author Affiliations

Department of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA

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BMC Cell Biology 2008, 9:57  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-9-57

Published: 10 October 2008



The organic solute transporter (OSTα-OSTβ) is a heteromeric transporter that is expressed on the basolateral membrane of epithelium in intestine, kidney, liver, testis and adrenal gland and facilitates efflux of bile acids and other steroid solutes. Both subunits are required for plasma membrane localization of the functional transporter but it is unclear how and where the subunits interact and whether glycosylation is required for functional activity. We sought to examine these questions for the human OSTα-OSTβ transporter using the human hepatoma cell line, HepG2, and COS7 cells transfected with constructs of human OSTα-FLAG and OSTβ-Myc.


Tunicamycin treatment demonstrated that human OSTα is glycosylated. In COS7 cells Western blotting identified the unglycosylated form (~31 kD), the core precursor form (~35 kD), and the mature, complex glycoprotein (~40 kD). Immunofluorescence of both cells indicated that, in the presence of OSTβ, the alpha subunit could still be expressed on the plasma membrane after tunicamycin treatment. Furthermore, the functional uptake of 3H-estrone sulfate was unchanged in the absence of N-glycosylation. Co-immunoprecipitation indicates that the immature form of OSTα interact with OSTβ. However, immunoprecipitation of OSTβ using an anti-Myc antibody did not co-precipitate the mature, complex glycosylated form of OSTα, suggesting that the primary interaction occurs early in the biosynthetic pathway and may be transient.


In conclusion, human OSTα is a glycoprotein that requires interaction with OSTβ to reach the plasma membrane. However, glycosylation of OSTα is not necessary for interaction with the beta subunit or for membrane localization or function of the heteromeric transporter.