Current model propose that in nonpolarized cells, transport of plasma membrane proteins to the surface occurs by default. In contrast, compelling evidence indicates that in polarized epithelial cells, plasma membrane proteins are sorted in the TGN into at least two vectorial routes to apical and basolateral surface domains. Since both apical and basolateral proteins are also normally expressed by both polarized and nonpolarized cells, we explored here whether recently described basolateral sorting signals in the cytoplasmic domain of basolateral proteins are recognized and used for post TGN transport by nonpolarized cells. To this end, we compared the inhibitory effect of basolateral signal peptides on the cytosol-stimulated release of two basolateral and one apical marker in semi-intact fibroblasts (3T3), pituitary (GH3), and epithelial (MDCK) cells. A basolateral signal peptide (VSVGp) corresponding to the 29-amino acid cytoplasmic tail of vesicular stomatitis virus G protein (VSVG) inhibited with identical potency the vesicular release of VSVG from the TGN of all three cell lines. On the other hand, the VSVG peptide did not inhibit the vesicular release of HA in MDCK cells not of two polypeptide hormones (growth hormone and prolactin) in GH3 cells, whereas in 3T3 cells (influenza) hemagglutinin was inhibited, albeit with a 3x lower potency than VSVG. The results support the existence of a basolateral-like, signal-mediated constitutive pathway from TGN to plasma membrane in all three cell types, and suggest that an apical-like pathway may be present in fibroblast. The data support cargo protein involvement, not bulk flow, in the formation of post-TGN vesicles and predict the involvement of distinct cytosolic factors in the assembly of apical and basolateral transport vesicles.

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