Enveloped viruses are excellent tools for the study of the biogenesis of epithelial polarity, because they bud asymmetrically from confluent monolayers of epithelial cells and because polarized budding is preceded by the accumulation of envelope proteins exclusively in the plasma membrane regions from which the viruses bud. In this work, three different experimental approaches showed that the carbohydrate moieties do not determine the final surface localization of either influenza (WSN strain) or vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) envelope proteins in infected Madin-Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cells, as determined by immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy, using ferritin as a marker. Infected concanavalin A- and ricin 1-resistant mutants of MDCK cells, with alterations in glycosylation, exhibited surface distributions of viral glycoproteins identical to those of the parental cell line, i.e., influenza envelope proteins were exclusively found in the apical surface, whereas VSV G protein was localized only in the basolateral region. MDCK cells treated with tunicamycin, which abolishes the glycosylation of viral glycoproteins, exhibited the same distribution of envelope proteins as control cells, after infection with VSF or influenza. A temperature-sensitive mutant of influenza WSN, ts3, which, when grown at the nonpermissive temperature of 39.5 degrees C, retains the sialic acid residues in the envelope glycoproteins, showed, at both 32 degrees C (permissive temperature) and 39.5 degrees C, budding polarity and viral glycoprotein distribution identical to those of the parental WSN strain, when grown in MDCK cells. These results demonstrate that carbohydrate moieties are not components of the addressing signals that determine the polarized distribution of viral envelope proteins, and possibly of the intrinsic cellular plasma membrane proteins, in the surface of epithelial cells.

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