Colchicine- and vinblastine-induced depolymerization of microtubules (MTs) in the intestinal epithelium of rats and mice resulted in significant delivery of three apical membrane proteins (alkaline phosphatase, sucrase-isomaltase, and aminopeptidase N) to the basolateral membrane domain. In addition, typical brush borders (BBs) occurred at the basolateral cell surface, consisting of numerous microvilli that contained the four major components of the cytoskeleton of apical microvilli (actin, villin, fimbrin, and the 110-kD protein). Formation of basolateral microvilli required polymerization of actin and proceeded at glycocalyx-studded plaques that resembled the dense plaques located at the tips of apical microvilli. BBs from the basolateral membrane became internalized into BB-containing vacuoles which served as recipient organelles for newly synthesized apical membrane proteins. The BB vacuoles fused with each other and finally were inserted into the apical BB. Polarized distribution of Na+,K+-ATPase, a basolateral membrane protein, was not affected by drug-induced depolymerization of MTs. These observations indicate that Golgi-derived carrier vesicles (CVs) containing apical membrane proteins are vectorially guided to the apical cell surface by a retrograde transport along MTs. MTs are uniformly oriented towards a narrow space underneath the apical terminal web (termed subterminal space) that contains MT-organizing properties and controls polarized alignment of MTs. In contrast to apical CVs, targeting of basolateral CVs appears to be independent of MTs but demands a barrier at the apical membrane domain that prevents basolateral CVs from apical fusion (transport barrier hypothesis).

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