Functional Characterization of TMEM127 Variants Reveals Novel Insights into Its Membrane Topology and Trafficking

Shahida K. Flores, Yilun Deng, Ziming Cheng, Xingyu Zhang, Sifan Tao, Afaf Saliba, Irene Chu, Nelly Burnichon, Anne Paule Gimenez-Roqueplo, Exing Wang, Ricardo C.T. Aguiar, Patricia L.M. Dahia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Context: TMEM127 is a poorly known tumor suppressor gene associated with pheochromocytomas, paragangliomas, and renal carcinomas. Our incomplete understanding of TMEM127 function has limited our ability to predict variant pathogenicity. Purpose: To better understand the function of the transmembrane protein TMEM127 we undertook cellular and molecular evaluation of patient-derived germline variants. Design: Subcellular localization and steady-state levels of tumor-associated, transiently expressed TMEM127 variants were compared to the wild-type protein using immunofluorescence and immunoblot analysis, respectively, in cells genetically modified to lack endogenous TMEM127. Membrane topology and endocytic mechanisms were also assessed. Results: We identified 3 subgroups of mutations and determined that 71% of the variants studied are pathogenic or likely pathogenic through loss of membrane-binding ability, stability, and/or internalization capability. Investigation into an N-terminal cluster of missense variants uncovered a previously unrecognized transmembrane domain, indicating that TMEM127 is a 4-transmembrane, not a 3-transmembrane domain-containing protein. Additionally, a C-terminal variant with predominant plasma membrane localization revealed an atypical, extended acidic, dileucine-based motif required for TMEM127 internalization through clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Conclusion: We characterized the functional deficits of several germline TMEM127 variants and identified novel structure–function features of TMEM127. These findings will assist in determining pathogenicity of TMEM127 variants and will help guide future studies investigating the cellular role of TMEM127.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E3142-E3156
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Endocytic motif
  • Germline variant
  • Paraganglioma
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • TMEM127
  • Transmembrane protein
  • Tumor suppressor gene
  • Variant classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Endocrinology
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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