Several processes that occur in the luminal compartments of the tissues are modulated by heparin-like polysaccharides. To identify proteins responsible for the expression of heparan sulfate at the apex of polarized cells, we investigated the polarity of the expression of the cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycans in CaCo-2 cells. Domain-specific biotinylation of the apical and basolateral membranes of these cells identified glypican, a GPI-linked heparan sulfate proteoglycan, as the major source of apical heparan sulfate. Yet, most of this proteoglycan was expressed at the basolateral surface, an unexpected finding for a glypiated protein. Metabolic labeling and chase experiments indicated that sorting mechanisms, rather than differential turnover, accounted for this bipolar expression of glypican. Chlorate treatment did not affect the polarity of the expression of glypican in CaCo-2 cells, and transfectant MDCK cells expressed wild-type glypican and a syndecan-4/glypican chimera also in an essentially unpolarized fashion. Yet, complete removal of the heparan sulfate glycanation sites from the glypican core protein resulted in the nearly exclusive apical targeting of glypican in the transfectants, whereas two- and one-chain mutant forms had intermediate distributions. These results indicate that glypican accounts for the expression of apical heparan sulfate, but that glycanation of the core protein antagonizes the activity of the apical sorting signal conveyed by the GPI anchor of this proteoglycan. A possible implication of these findings is that heparan sulfate glycanation may be a determinant of the subcellular expression of glypican. Alternatively, inverse glycanation-apical sorting relationships in glypican may insure near constant deliveries of HS to the apical compartment, or "active" GPI-mediated entry of heparan sulfate into apical membrane compartments may require the overriding of this antagonizing effect of the heparan sulfate chains.

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