An overview of trafficking and assembly of neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels (Review).
Ionotropic neurotransmitter receptors and voltage-gated ion channels assemble from several homologous and non-homologous subunits. Assembly of these multimeric membrane proteins is a tightly controlled process subject to primary and secondary quality control mechanisms. An assembly pathway involving a dimerization of dimers has been demonstrated for a voltage-gated potassium channel and for different types of glutamate receptors. While many novel C-terminal assembly domains have been identified in various members of the voltage-gated cation channel superfamily, the assembly pathways followed by these proteins remain largely elusive. Recent progress on the recognition of polar residues in the transmembrane segments of membrane proteins by the retrieval factor Rer1 is likely to be relevant for the further investigation of trafficking defects in channelopathies. This mechanism might also contribute to controlling the assembly of ion channels by retrieving unassembled subunits to the endoplasmic reticulum. The endoplasmic reticulum is a metabolic compartment studded with small molecule transporters. This environment provides ligands that have recently been shown to act as pharmacological chaperones in the biogenesis of ligand-gated ion channels. Future progress depends on the improvement of tools, in particular the antibodies used by the field, and the continued exploitation of genetically tractable model organisms in screens and physiological experiments.