Whereas brefeldin A (BFA) protected a number of cell lines against the protein toxin ricin, two of the cell lines tested were not protected but rather sensitized to ricin by BFA. EM studies revealed that upon addition of BFA the Golgi stacks in cells which were protected against the toxin rapidly transformed into a characteristic tubulo-vesicular reticulum connected to the endoplasmic reticulum, and subcellular fractionation experiments showed that galactosyl transferase disappeared from the Golgi fractions where it was normally located. EM and subcellular fractionation also indicated that in contrast to the Golgi stacks, the trans-Golgi network (TGN) remained intact and that internalized ricin was still localized in the TGN both when BFA was added before and after the toxin. Thus, BFA does not prevent fusion of ricin-containing vesicles with the TGN, and unlike resident proteins in Golgi stacks, ricin is not transported back to ER upon treatment of cells with BFA. Two kidney epithelial cell lines, MDCK and PtK2, were not protected against ricin by BFA, and EM studies of MDCK cells revealed that BFA did not alter the morphology of the Golgi complex in these cells. Also, subcellular fractionation revealed that, in contrast to the other cell types tested, the localization of galactosyl transferase in the gradients was not affected by BFA treatment. The data show that there is a correlation between BFA-induced disassembly of the Golgi stacks and protection against ricin, and they demonstrate that the structural organization of the Golgi apparatus is affected by BFA to different extents in various cell lines.

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