Polycystin-2 cation channel function in the human syncytiotrophoblast is regulated by microtubular structures


  • N. Montalbetti and Q. Li contributed equally to this work.

Corresponding author H. F. Cantiello: Renal Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital East, Building 149, 13th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA. Email: cantiello@helix.mgh.harvard.edu


Polycystin-2 (PC2), encoded by PKD2, which is one of the genes whose mutations cause polycystic kidney disease, is abundantly produced in the apical domain of the syncytiotrophoblast (hST) of term human placenta. PC2, a TRP-type (TRPP2) non-selective cation channel, is present in primary cilia of renal epithelial cells, a microtubule-based ancillary structure with sensory function. The hST has abundant cytoskeletal structures, and actin filament dynamics regulate PC2 channel function in this epithelium. However, it is expected that the apical hST excludes microtubular structures. Here, we demonstrated by Western blot and immunocytochemical analyses that hST apical vesicles indeed contain microtubule structural components, including tubulin isoforms, acetylated α-tubulin, and the kinesin motor proteins KIF3A and KIF3B. PC2 and tubulin were substantially colocalized in hST vesicles. Treatment of hST vesicles with either the microtubular disrupter colchicine (15 μm) or the microtubular stabilizer paclitaxel (taxol, 15 μm) resulted in distinct patterns of microtubular re-organization and PC2 redistribution. We also observed that changes in microtubular dynamics regulate PC2 channel function. Addition of colchicine rapidly inhibited PC2 channel activity in lipid-bilayer reconstituted hST membranes. Addition of either tubulin and GTP, or taxol, however, stimulated PC2 channel activity in control hST membranes. Interestingly, we found that the kinesin motor protein KIF3A was capable of increasing PC2 channel activity in hST. We believe that the data are the first to provide a direct demonstration of a microtubular interaction with PC2 in the hST. This interaction thus plays an important regulatory role in the control of ion transport in the human placenta.