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Keywords:

  • axonal transport;
  • potassium channel;
  • rat;
  • targeting;
  • vesicle transport

Abstract

Shaker K+ channels play an important role in modulating electrical excitability of axons. Recent work has demonstrated that the T1 tetramerization domain of Kv1.2 is both necessary and sufficient for targeting of the channel to the axonal surface [Gu, C., Jan, Y.N. & Jan, L.Y. (2003)Science,301, 646–649]. Here we use a related channel, Kv1.3, as a model to investigate cellular mechanisms that mediate axonal targeting. We show that the T1 domain of Kv1.3 is necessary and sufficient to mediate targeting of the channel to the axonal surface in pyramidal neurons in slices of cortex from neonatal rat. The T1 domain is also sufficient to cause preferential axonal localization of intracellular protein, which indicates that the domain probably does not work through compartment-specific endocytosis or compartment-specific vesicle docking. To determine whether the T1 domain mediates axonal trafficking of transport vesicles, we compared the trafficking of vesicles containing green fluorescent protein-labelled transferrin receptor with those containing the same protein fused with the T1 domain in living cortical neurons. Vesicles containing the wild-type transferrin receptor did not traffic to the axon, in accord with previously published results; however, those containing the transferrin receptor fused to T1 did traffic to the axon. These results are consistent with the T1 domain of Kv1.3 mediating axonal targeting by causing transport vesicles to traffic to axons and they represent the first evidence that such a mechanism might underlie axonal targeting.