We have studied proteoglycan secretion using a recently developed system for the preparing of polarized primary cultures of rat uterine epithelial cells. To mimic their native environment better and provide a system for discriminating apical from basolateral compartments, we cultured cells on semipermeable supports impregnated with biomatrix. Keratan sulfate proteoglycans (KSPG) as well as heparan sulfate-containing molecules (HS[PG]) were the major sulfated products synthesized and secreted by these cells. The ability of epithelial cells to secrete KSPG greatly increased in parallel with the development of cell polarity. Furthermore, KSPG secretion occurred preferentially to the apical medium in highly polarized cultures. In contrast, HS(PG) secretion did not increase along with development of polarity, although most HS(PG) (85%) were secreted apically as well. Pulse-chase studies indicated that highly polarized cultures secreted 80-90% of the sulfated macromolecules they synthesized, predominantly to the apical secretory compartment. The half-lives for KSPG and HS(PG) secretion were approximately 3 and 4 h, respectively. Parallel studies of cells cultured on tissue culture plastic-coated with biomatrix indicated that neither the state of confluency nor the biomatrix was primarily responsible for inducing the KSPG secretion observed in polarizing cultures. Experiments with uterine strips indicated that the steroid hormone, 17-beta-estradiol, markedly stimulated synthesis and secretion of sulfated macromolecules, but had no preferential effect on KSPG production. The ratio of KSPG to HS(PG) secretion from uterine strips was similar to that found in the apical medium of highly polarized cell cultures. Thus, the pattern of proteoglycan secretion observed in polarized cell cultures mimicked that observed for uterine cells, although the preferential increase in KSPG production by polarized cells could not be attributed to an estrogen response. Collectively, these studies describe the major sulfated molecules secreted by rat uterine epithelial cells under varying conditions and provide evidence for a novel influence of cell polarity on the cell's ability to secrete sulfated glycoconjugates.

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