ABC-transporters transport a wealth of molecules across membranes and consist of transmembrane and cytosolic domains. Their activity cycle involves a tightly regulated and concerted domain choreography. Regulation is driven by the cytosolic domains and function by the transmembrane domains. Folding of these polytopic multidomain proteins to their functional state is a challenge for cells, which is mitigated by co-translational and sequential events. We here reveal the first stages of co-translational domain folding and assembly of CFTR, the ABC-transporter defective in the most abundant rare inherited disease cystic fibrosis. We have combined biosynthetic radiolabeling with protease-susceptibility assays and domain-specific antibodies. The most N-terminal domain, TMD1 (transmembrane domain 1), folds both its hydrophobic and soluble helices during translation: the transmembrane helices pack tightly and the cytosolic N- and C-termini assemble with the first cytosolic helical loop ICL1, leaving only ICL2 exposed. This N-C-ICL1 assembly is strengthened by two independent events: i) assembly of ICL1 with the N-terminal subdomain of the next domain, cytosolic NBD1 (nucleotide-binding domain 1); and ii) in the presence of corrector drug VX-809, which rescues cell-surface expression of a range of disease-causing CFTR mutants. Both lead to increased shielding of the CFTR N-terminus, and their additivity implies different modes of action. Early assembly of NBD1 and TMD1 is essential for CFTR folding and positions both domains for the required assembly with TMD2. Altogether, we have gained insights into this first, nucleating, VX-809-enhanced domain-assembly event during and immediately after CFTR translation, involving structures conserved in type-I ABC exporters.
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.