Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is a member of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transport superfamily. CFTR folding and assembly appear to involve several events occurred in the cytosol and ER. Misfolding of CFTR causes cystic fibrosis, and thus, understanding the folding mechanism of CFTR is extremely important. Recently, detailed study of membrane insertion process suggests that the first two transmembrane (TM) segments of CFTR have two distinct but independent mechanisms to ensure the correct membrane folding of its amino terminal end [Lu, Y., Xiong, X., Helm, A., Kimani, K., Bragin, A., Skach, W. R. (1998) J. Biol. Chem. 273, 568- 576]. To understand how other TM segments are ensured to insert into membranes correctly, we investigated the topogenesis of TM3 and TM4 of CFTR in a cell-free expression system. We found that the correct membrane insertion of TM3 and TM4 of CFTR was ensured by their flanking amino acid sequences and controlled by the correct membrane insertion of their preceding TM1 and TM2. Thus, correct membrane insertion and folding of TM1 and TM2 play an essential role in the membrane insertion and folding of the subsequent TM segments of CFTR.
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