Genetic interactions between UNC-17/VAChT and a novel transmembrane protein in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Mathews EA., Mullen GP., Hodgkin J., Duerr JS., Rand JB.
The unc-17 gene encodes the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) in Caenorhabditis elegans. unc-17 reduction-of-function mutants are small, slow growing, and uncoordinated. Several independent unc-17 alleles are associated with a glycine-to-arginine substitution (G347R), which introduces a positive charge in the ninth transmembrane domain (TMD) of UNC-17. To identify proteins that interact with UNC-17/VAChT, we screened for mutations that suppress the uncoordinated phenotype of UNC-17(G347R) mutants. We identified several dominant allele-specific suppressors, including mutations in the sup-1 locus. The sup-1 gene encodes a single-pass transmembrane protein that is expressed in a subset of neurons and in body muscles. Two independent suppressor alleles of sup-1 are associated with a glycine-to-glutamic acid substitution (G84E), resulting in a negative charge in the SUP-1 TMD. A sup-1 null mutant has no obvious deficits in cholinergic neurotransmission and does not suppress unc-17 mutant phenotypes. Bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) analysis demonstrated close association of SUP-1 and UNC-17 in synapse-rich regions of the cholinergic nervous system, including the nerve ring and dorsal nerve cords. These observations suggest that UNC-17 and SUP-1 are in close proximity at synapses. We propose that electrostatic interactions between the UNC-17(G347R) and SUP-1(G84E) TMDs alter the conformation of the mutant UNC-17 protein, thereby restoring UNC-17 function; this is similar to the interaction between UNC-17/VAChT and synaptobrevin.