ABCB6 belongs to the family of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, which transport various molecules across extra- and intra-cellular membranes, bearing significant impact on human disease and pharmacology. Although mutations in the ABCB6 gene have been linked to a variety of pathophysiological conditions ranging from transfusion incompatibility to pigmentation defects, its precise cellular localization and function is not understood. In particular, the intracellular localization of ABCB6 has been a matter of debate, with conflicting reports suggesting mitochondrial or endolysosomal expression. ABCB6 shows significant sequence identity to HMT-1 (heavy metal tolerance factor 1) proteins, whose evolutionarily conserved role is to confer tolerance to heavy metals through the intracellular sequestration of metal complexes. Here, we show that the cadmium-sensitive phenotype of Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Caenorhabditis elegans strains defective for HMT-1 is rescued by the human ABCB6 protein. Overexpression of ABCB6 conferred tolerance to cadmium and As(III) (As 2 O 3 ), but not to As(V) (Na 2 HAsO 4 ), Sb(V), Hg(II), or Zn(II). Inactivating mutations of ABCB6 abolished vacuolar sequestration of cadmium, effectively suppressing the cadmium tolerance phenotype. Modulation of ABCB6 expression levels in human glioblastoma cells resulted in a concomitant change in cadmium sensitivity. Our findings reveal ABCB6 as a functional homologue of the HMT-1 proteins, linking endolysosomal ABCB6 to the highly conserved mechanism of intracellular cadmium detoxification.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology