Regulation of epithelial Na(+) channel (ENaC)-mediated transport in the distal nephron is a critical determinant of blood pressure in humans. Aldosterone via serum and glucocorticoid kinase 1 (SGK1) stimulates ENaC by phosphorylation of the E3 ubiquitin ligase Nedd4-2, which induces interaction with 14-3-3 proteins. However, the mechanisms of SGK1- and 14-3-3-mediated regulation of Nedd4-2 are unclear. There are three canonical SGK1 target sites on Nedd4-2 that overlap phosphorylation-dependent 14-3-3 interaction motifs. Two of these are termed "minor," and one is termed "major," based on weak or strong binding to 14-3-3 proteins, respectively. By mass spectrometry, we found that aldosterone significantly stimulates phosphorylation of a minor, relative to the major, 14-3-3 binding site on Nedd4-2. Phosphorylation-deficient minor site Nedd4-2 mutants bound less 14-3-3 than did wild-type (WT) Nedd4-2, and minor site Nedd4-2 mutations were sufficient to inhibit SGK1 stimulation of ENaC cell surface expression. As measured by pulse-chase and cycloheximide chase assays, a major binding site Nedd4-2 mutant had a shorter cellular half-life than WT Nedd4-2, but this property was not dependent on binding to 14-3-3. Additionally, a dimerization-deficient 14-3-3ε mutant failed to bind Nedd4-2. We conclude that whereas phosphorylation at the Nedd4-2 major site is important for interaction with 14-3-3 dimers, minor site phosphorylation by SGK1 may be the relevant molecular switch that stabilizes Nedd4-2 interaction with 14-3-3 and thus promotes ENaC cell surface expression. We also propose that major site phosphorylation promotes cellular Nedd4-2 protein stability, which potentially represents a novel form of regulation for turnover of E3 ubiquitin ligases.
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