Erythropoietin (EPO) promotes the viability, proliferation and differentiation of mammalian erythroid progenitor cells via its specific cell surface receptor. The EPO receptor (EPO-R) is a member of the cytokine receptor superfamily and is comprised of one identified subunit which homodimerizes upon ligand binding. To study the role of the intracellular domain of the EPO-R in the endocytosis of EPO, we compared the rate and extent of 125I-EPO endocytosis by mild type (wt) EPO-R and five cytoplasmically truncated EPO-Rs: 1-251 EPO-R, 1-257 EPO-R, 1-267 EPO-R, 1-276 EPO-R and 1-306 EPO-R which contain 4, 10, 20, 29 or 59 amino acids of the cytoplasmic domain, respectively. We also studied an EPO-R mutant (PB) which lacks amino acid residues 281-300 of the cytoplasmic domain. The experiments were conducted in COS 7 cells transfected with the EPO-R cDNAs and in Ba/F3 cells stably expressing the wt EPO-R, 1-251 or 1-257 EPO-R. Cells expressing wt EPO-R, PB EPO-R (Δ281-300), 1-276 EPO-R or 1-306 EPO-R internalized approximately 50% of 125I-EPO bound to the cell surface, while cells expressing 1-251, 1-257 or 1-267 EPO-R internalized only 25% of the bound 1251-EPO. The steady-state expression levels of these latter receptors on the cell surface were typically 2-5-fold higher than wt EPO-R. Our data indicate that amino acid residues 267-276 (FEGLFTTHK) of the EPO-R cytoplasmic domain may have a role in receptor internalization. Metabolic labeling experiments suggest that in transiently transfected COS 7 cells most of the wt EPO-R and 1-257 EPO-Rs do not exit the ER and may be degraded there. The half-life or both receptors was essentially similar and was in the range of 1 h. In Ba/F3 cells the mature Golgi processed 1-257 EPO-R was more stable than the corresponding form of the wt EPO-R, possibly contributing to its higher cell surface expression.
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