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SNPs Altering Ammonium Transport Activity of Human Rhesus Factors Characterized by a Yeast-Based Functional Assay

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071092
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Proteins
  • Transmembrane Transport Proteins
  • Biotechnology
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Genetics
  • Animal Genetics
  • Gene Function
  • Genetics Of Disease
  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology
  • Model Organisms
  • Animal Models
  • Mouse
  • Yeast And Fungal Models
  • Saccharomyces Cerevisiae
  • Medicine
  • Metabolic Disorders
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Proteins of the conserved Mep-Amt-Rh family, including mammalian Rhesus factors, mediate transmembrane ammonium transport. Ammonium is an important nitrogen source for the biosynthesis of amino acids but is also a metabolic waste product. Its disposal in urine plays a critical role in the regulation of the acid/base homeostasis, especially with an acid diet, a trait of Western countries. Ammonium accumulation above a certain concentration is however pathologic, the cytotoxicity causing fatal cerebral paralysis in acute cases. Alteration in ammonium transport via human Rh proteins could have clinical outcomes. We used a yeast-based expression assay to characterize human Rh variants resulting from non synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (nsSNPs) with known or unknown clinical phenotypes and assessed their ammonium transport efficiency, protein level, localization and potential trans-dominant impact. The HsRhAG variants (I61R, F65S) associated to overhydrated hereditary stomatocytosis (OHSt), a disease affecting erythrocytes, proved affected in intrinsic bidirectional ammonium transport. Moreover, this study reveals that the R202C variant of HsRhCG, the orthologue of mouse MmRhcg required for optimal urinary ammonium excretion and blood pH control, shows an impaired inherent ammonium transport activity. Urinary ammonium excretion was RHcg gene-dose dependent in mouse, highlighting MmRhcg as a limiting factor. HsRhCGR202C may confer susceptibility to disorders leading to metabolic acidosis for instance. Finally, the analogous R211C mutation in the yeast ScMep2 homologue also impaired intrinsic activity consistent with a conserved functional role of the preserved arginine residue. The yeast expression assay used here constitutes an inexpensive, fast and easy tool to screen nsSNPs reported by high throughput sequencing or individual cases for functional alterations in Rh factors revealing potential causal variants.

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