Immunogold double-labeling and ultrathin cryosections were used to compare the subcellular distribution of albumin, mannose 6-phosphate receptor (MPR), galactosyltransferase, and the lysosomal enzymes cathepsin D, beta-hexosaminidase, and alpha-glucosidase in Hep G2 cells. MPR and lysosomal enzymes were found throughout the stack of Golgi cisternae and in a trans-Golgi reticulum (TGR) of smooth-surfaced tubules with coated buds and vesicles. The trans-Golgi orientation of TGR was ascertained by the co-localization with galactosyltransferase. MPR was particularly abundant in TGR and CURL, the compartment of uncoupling receptors and ligands. Both TGR and CURL also contained lysosomal enzymes, but endogenous albumin was detected in TGR only. The coated buds on TGR tubules contained MPR, lysosomal enzymes, as well as albumin. MPR and lysosomal enzymes were also found in coated pits of the plasma membrane. CURL tubules seemed to give rise to smooth vesicles, often of the multivesicular body type. In CURL, the enzymes were found in the lumina of the smooth vesicles while MPR prevailed in the tubules. These observations suggest a role of CURL in transport of lysosomal enzymes to lysosomes. When the cells were treated with the lysosomotropic amine primaquine, binding of anti-MPR to the cells in culture was reduced by half. Immunocytochemistry showed that MPR accumulated in TGR, especially in coated buds. Since these buds contain endogenous albumin and lysosomal enzymes also, these data suggest that coated vesicles originating from TGR provide for a secretory route in Hep G2 cells and that this pathway is followed by the MPR system as well.

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