The mouse pituitary cell line, AtT-20, packages the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in secretory vesicles and releases it when the cell is stimulated with secretagogues. These cells have the capacity, after transfection with the appropriate DNA, to package heterologous peptide hormones into the regulated secretory vesicles (Moore, H. P. H., M. D. Walker, F. Lee, and R. B. Kelly, 1983, Cell, 35:531-538). To test if other secreted proteins prefer a different route to the surface, we have transfected AtT-20 cells with DNAs coding for a fragment of a membrane protein, the vesicular stomatitis virus G protein from which the membrane spanning domain has been deleted (Rose, J. K., and J. E. Bergmann, 1982, Cell, 17:813-819). We found that the secreted vesicular stomatitis virus G proteins were not transported to the regulated secretory vesicles. Instead they preferentially exited the cell by the constitutive pathway previously found in these cells (Gumbiner, B., and R. B. Kelly, 1982, Cell, 28:51-59). In contrast, human growth hormone transfected into the cells by the same procedure was transported to the regulated pathway with a similar efficiency as the endogenous hormone ACTH. Transport of the secreted G protein to the regulated pathway, if it occurs at all, is at least 30-fold less efficient than peptide hormones. We conclude that the transport machinery in AtT-20 cells must selectively recognize different secreted proteins and sort them into distinct secretory pathways.

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