More than 80 loss-of-function (LOF) mutations in the SLC6A8 creatine transporter (hCRT1) are responsible for cerebral creatine deficiency syndrome (CCDS), which gives rise to a spectrum of neurological defects, including intellectual disability, epilepsy, and autism spectrum disorder. To gain insight into the nature of the molecular defects caused by these mutations, we quantitatively profiled the cellular processing, trafficking, expression, and function of eight pathogenic CCDS variants in relation to the wild type (WT) and one neutral isoform. All eight CCDS variants exhibit measurable proteostatic deficiencies that likely contribute to the observed LOF. However, the magnitudes of their specific effects on the expression and trafficking of hCRT1 vary considerably, and we find that the LOF associated with two of these variants primarily arises from the disruption of the substrate-binding pocket. In conjunction with an analysis of structural models of the transporter, we use these data to suggest mechanistic classifications for these variants. To evaluate potential avenues for therapeutic intervention, we assessed the sensitivity of these variants to temperature and measured their response to the proteostasis regulator 4-phenylbutyrate (4-PBA). Only one of the tested variants (G132V) is sensitive to temperature, though its response to 4-PBA is negligible. Nevertheless, 4-PBA significantly enhances the activity of WT hCRT1 in HEK293T cells, which suggests it may be worth evaluating as a therapeutic for female intellectual disability patients carrying a single CCDS mutation. Together, these findings reveal that pathogenic SLC6A8 mutations cause a spectrum of molecular defects that should be taken into consideration in future efforts to develop CCDS therapeutics.
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