Highly specific detection of muscarinic M3 receptor, G protein interaction and intracellular trafficking in human detrusor using Proximity Ligation Assay (PLA)

Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) regulate a number of important physiological functions. Alteration of mAChR expression or function has been associated in the etiology of several pathologies including functional bladder disorders (e. g bladder pain syndrome/interstitial cystitis - BPS/IC). In a previous study we found specific mAChR expression patterns associated with BPS/IC, while correlation between protein and gene expression was lacking. Posttranslational regulatory mechanisms, e.g. altered intracellular receptor trafficking, could explain those differences. In addition, alternative G protein (GP) coupling could add to the pathophysiology via modulation of muscarinic signaling. In our proof-of-principle study, we addressed these questions in situ. We established PLA in combination with confocal laserscanning microscopy (CLSM) and 3D object reconstruction for highly specific detection and analysis of muscarinic 3 receptors (M3), G protein (GP) coupling and intracellular trafficking in human detrusor samples.

Paraffin sections of formalin-fixed bladder tissue (FFPE) of BPS/IC patients receiving transurethral biopsy were examined by Cy3-PLA for M3 expression, coupling of M3 to GPs (Gαq/11, Gαs, Gαi) and interaction of M3 with endocytic regulator proteins. Membranes were labeled with wheat germ agglutinin-Alexa Fluor®488, nuclei were stained with DAPI. Object density and co-localization were analyzed in 3D-reconstruction of high resolution confocal z-stacks.

Confocal image stack processing resulted in well demarcated objects. Calculated receptor densities correlated significantly with existing confocal expression data, while significantly improved specificity of M3 detection by PLA was verified using bladder tissue samples from transgenic mice. 50-60% of the M3 receptor complexes were plasma membrane associated in human bladder detrusor. Application of PLA for M3 and GPs allowed visualization of M3-GP interactions and revealed individual GP-subtype coupling patterns. Detection of M3 interactions with endocytic trafficking proteins by PLA resulted in object sizes correlating with well-documented vesicle sizes of the endocytosis pathway.

PLA enabled highly specific detection of M3 receptor expression, demonstration of M3/GP differential coupling and intracellular M3 trafficking in human detrusor smooth muscle cells. This new approach minimized background fluorescence and antibody cross-reactions resulting from single antibody application, and enhanced specificity due to the use of two primary antibodies. Use of subcellular markers allowed visualization of subcellular receptor location. PLA/CLSM allows analyses of muscarinic "receptor - G protein - promiscuity" and intracellular trafficking even in bladder paraffin sections and may give new insights into the etiology and pathology of BPS/IC.

Acta histochemica. 2018 Mar 15 [Epub ahead of print]

Mandy Berndt-Paetz, Luise Herbst, Annett Weimann, Andreas Gonsior, Jens-Uwe Stolzenburg, Jochen Neuhaus

Department of Urology, Research Laboratories, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany. Electronic address: ., Department of Urology, Research Laboratories, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany., Department of Urology, University Hospital Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.