Plant cells, like other eukaryotic cells, use the secretory pathway to target proteins to the vacuolar/lysosomal compartment and to the extracellular space. We wished to determine whether the presence of a hydrophobic signal peptide would result in the transport of a reporter protein to vacuoles by bulk flow; to investigate this question, we expressed a chimeric gene in transgenic tobacco. The chimeric gene, Phalb, used for this study consists of the 1,188-bp 5' upstream sequence and the hydrophobic signal sequence of a vacuolar seed protein phytohemagglutinin, and the coding sequence of a cytosolic seed albumin (PA2). The chimeric protein PHALB cross-reacted with antibodies to PA2 and was found in the seeds of the transgenic plants (approximately 0.7% of total protein), but not in the leaves, roots, or flowers. Immunoblot analyses of seed extracts revealed four glycosylated polypeptides ranging in molecular weight from 29,000 to 32,000. The four polypeptides are glycoforms of a single polypeptide of Mr 27,000, and the heterogeneity is due to the presence of high mannose and endoglycosidase H-resistant glycans. The PHALB products reacted with an antiserum specific for complex plant glycans indicating that the glycans had been modified in the Golgi apparatus. Subcellular fractionation of glycerol extracts of mature seeds showed that only small amounts of PHALB accumulated in the protein storage vacuoles of the tobacco seeds. In homogenates made in an isotonic medium, very little PHALB was associated with the organelle fraction containing the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus; most of it was in the soluble fraction. We conclude that PHALB passed through the Golgi apparatus, but did not arrive in the vacuoles. Transport to vacuoles is not by a bulk-flow mechanism, once proteins have entered the secretory system, and requires information beyond that provided by a hydrophobic signal peptide.

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