Zuber MX, Strittmatter SM, Fishman MC. 1989. A membrane-targeting signal in the amino terminus of the neuronal protein GAP-43. Nature. 341(6240):345-8. Pubmed: 2797153


Neurons and other cells, such as those of epithelia, accumulate particular proteins in spatially discrete domains of the plasma membrane. This enrichment is probably important for localization of function, but it is not clear how it is accomplished. One proposal for epithelial cells is that proteins contain targeting signals which guide preferential accumulation in basal or apical membranes. The growth-cone membrane of a neuron serves as a specialized transduction system, which helps to convert cues from its environment into regulated growth. Because it can be physically separated from the cell soma, it has been possible to show that the growth-cone membrane contains a restricted set of total cellular proteins, although, to our knowledge, no proteins are limited to that structure. One of the most prominent proteins in the growth-cone membrane is GAP-43. Basi et al. have suggested that the N-terminus of GAP-43 might be important for the binding of GAP-43 to the growth-cone membrane. Skene and Virag recently found that the cysteines in the N-terminus are fatty-acylated and that this post-translational modification correlates with membrane-binding ability. We investigated the binding of GAP-43 to the growth-cone membrane by mutational analysis and by laser-scanning confocal microscopy of fusion proteins that included regions of GAP-43 and chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT). We found that a short stretch of the GAP-43 N-terminus suffices to direct accumulation in growth-cone membranes, especially in the filopodia. This supports a previous proposal for the importance of this region of GAP-43 in determining the membrane distribution of GAP-43.

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Photo of Mark C. Fishman

Mark C. Fishman’s group studies the heart-brain connection. They employ a range of genetic, developmental, and neurobiological tools in zebrafish to understand what the heart tells the brain, and how critical internal sensory systems adjust homeostatic and somatic behaviors, including social interactions.

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