Sequences that direct subcellular traffic of the Drosophila methoprene-tolerant protein (MET) are located predominantly in the PAS domains.
Methoprene-tolerant protein (MET) is a key mediator of antimetamorphic signaling in insects. MET belongs to the family of bHLH-PAS transcription factors which regulate gene expression and determine essential physiological and developmental processes. The ability of many bHLH-PAS proteins to carry out their functions is related to the patterns of intracellular trafficking, which are determined by specific sequences and indicate that a nuclear localization signal (NLS) or a nuclear export signal (NES) is present and active. Therefore, the identification of NLS and NES signals is fundamental in order to understand the intracellular signaling role of MET. Nevertheless, data on the intracellular trafficking of MET are inconsistent, and until now there hasn't been any data on potential NLS and NES sequences. To analyze the trafficking of MET we designed a number of expression vectors encoding full-length MET, as well as various derivatives, that were fused to yellow fluorescent protein (YFP). Confocal microscopy analysis of the subcellular distribution of YFP-MET indicated that while this protein was localized mainly in the nucleus, it was also observed in the cytoplasm. This suggested the presence of both an NLS and NES in MET. Our work has shown that each of the two PAS domains of MET (PAS-A and PAS-B, respectively) contain one NLS and one NES sequence. Additional NES activity was present in the C-terminal fragment. The NLS activity located in PAS-B was dependent on the presence of juvenile hormone (JH), the potential ligand for MET. In contrast to this, JH didn't seem to be required for the NLS in PAS-A to be active. However, on the basis of current knowledge about the function of PAS-A in other bHLH-PAS proteins, we suggest there might be other proteins that control the activity of the NLS and possibly the NES located in the PAS-A of MET. Thus, the intracellular trafficking of MET seems to be regulated by a rather complicated network of different factors.