ABCG5 (G5) and ABCG8 (G8) are ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters that limit intestinal absorption and promote biliary excretion of neutral sterols. Mutations in either ABCG5 or ABCG8 result in an identical clinical phenotype, suggesting that these two half-transporters function as heterodimers. Expression of both G5 and G8 is required for either protein to be transported to the plasma membrane of cultured cells. In this paper we used immunofluorescence microscopy to confirm, in vivo, that G5 is localized to the apical membranes of mouse enterocytes and hepatocytes. Other ABC half-transporters function as homodimers or as heterodimers with other subfamily members. To determine whether G5 or G8 complex with other ABCG half-transporters, we co-expressed G1, G2, and G4 with either G5 or G8 in cultured cells. G1, G2, and G4 co-immunoprecipitated with G5, and G4 co-immunoprecipitated with G8, but the putative dimers were retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Adenovirus-mediated expression of either G5 or G8 in the liver of G5G8 null mice resulted in ER retention of the expressed proteins and no increase in biliary cholesterol. In contrast, co-expression of G5 and G8 resulted in transit of the proteins out of the ER and a 10-fold increase in biliary cholesterol concentration. Finally, adenoviral expression of G2 in the presence or absence of G5 or G8 failed to promote sterol excretion into bile. These experiments indicate that G5 and G8 function as obligate heterodimers to promote sterol excretion into bile.
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