B cell antigen receptors (BCRs) are multimeric transmembrane protein complexes comprising membrane-bound immunoglobulins (mIgs) and Ig-alpha/Ig-beta heterodimers. In most cases, transport of mIgs from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the cell surface requires assembly with the Ig-alpha/Ig-beta subunits. In addition to Ig-alpha/Ig-beta, mIg molecules also bind two ER-resident membrane proteins, BAP29 and BAP31, and the chaperone heavy chain binding protein (BiP). In this article, we show that neither Ig-alpha/Ig-beta nor BAP29/BAP31 nor BiP bind simultaneously to the same mIgD molecule. Blue native PAGE revealed that only a minor fraction of intracellular mIgD is associated with high-molecular-weight BAP29/BAP31 complexes. BAP-binding to mIgs was found to correlate with ER retention of chimeric mIgD molecules. On high-level expression in Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells, mIgD molecules were detected on the cell surface in the absence of Ig-alpha/Ig-beta. This aberrant transport was prevented by coexpression of BAP29 and BAP31. Thus, BAP complexes contribute to ER retention of mIg complexes that are not bound to Ig-alpha/Ig-beta. Furthermore, the mechanism of ER retention of both BAP31 and mIgD is not through retrieval from a post-ER compartment, but true ER retention. In conclusion, BAP29 and BAP31 might be the long sought after retention proteins and/or chaperones that act on transmembrane regions of various proteins.
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