Variants of the carboxyl-terminal KDEL sequence direct intracellular retention

D. A. Andres, I. M. Dickerson, J. E. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Soluble proteins which reside in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum share a common carboxyl-terminal tetrapeptide Lys-Asp-Glu-Leu (KDEL). Addition of the tetrapeptide to a normally secreted protein is both necessary and sufficient to cause retention in the endoplasmic reticulum. In order to characterize the critical residues in the KDEL signal, cDNAs encoding proneuropeptide Y (pro-NPY) with the 4-amino acid carboxyl-terminal extension KDEL or a series of KDEL variants were expressed in the AtT-20 cell line. AtT-20 cells, a mouse anterior pituitary corticotrope cell line, synthesize, process, and secrete the proACTH/endorphin precursor. Since post-translational processing in AtT-20 cells has been extensively characterized, it provides a model system in which the processing of a foreign peptide precursor (pro-NPY) and the endogenous precursor (pro-ACTH/endorphin) can be compared. Altered cDNAs encoding pro-NPY with KDEL, DKEL, RDEL, KNEL, KDQL, or KDEA at the COOH terminus were used to generate stable AtT-20 cell lines. The processing of pro-NPY to neuropeptide Y and the carboxyl-terminal peptide was studied using sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, tryptic peptide mapping, and radiosequencing. Addition of the tetrapeptides KDEL, DKEL, RDEL, or KNEL to the COOH terminus of the neuropeptide Y precursor, a peptide hormone normally processed and secreted from neuronal cells, caused complete intracellular retention of the unprocessed prohormone in AtT-20 cells. However, KDQL and KDEA-extended pro-NPY molecules were processed and secreted like wild-type pro-NPY when expressed in AtT-20 cells. The secretion of proNPY-derived peptides in these cell lines paralleled secretion of endogenous pro-ACTH/endorphin-derived products under both basal and stimulated conditions. These mutagenesis studies demonstrate that variants of the KDEL retention signal can direct intracellular retention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5952-5955
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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