Recent experiments using DNA transfection have shown that secretory proteins in AtT-20 cells are sorted into two biochemically distinct secretory pathways. These two pathways differ in the temporal regulation of exocytosis. Proteins secreted by the regulated pathway are stored in dense-core granules until release is stimulated by secretagogues. In contrast, proteins secreted by the constitutive pathway are exported continuously, without storage. It is not known whether there are mechanisms to segregate regulated and constitutive secretory vesicles spatially. In this study, we examined the site of insertion of constitutive vesicles and compared it with that of regulated secretory granules. Regulated granules accumulate at tips of processes in these cells. To determine whether constitutively externalized membrane proteins are inserted into plasma membrane at the cell body or at process tips, AtT-20 cells were infected with ts-O45, a temperature-sensitive mutant of vesicular stomatitis virus in which transport of the surface glycoprotein G is conditionally blocked in the ER. After switching to the permissive temperature, insertion of G protein was detected at the cell body, not at process tips. Targeting of constitutive and regulated secretory vesicles to distinct areas of the plasma membrane appears to be mediated by microtubules. We found that while disruption of microtubules by colchicine had no effect on constitutive secretion, it completely blocked the accumulation of regulated granules at special release sites. Colchicine also affected the proper packaging of regulated secretory proteins. We conclude that regulated and constitutive secretory vesicles are targeted to different areas of the plasma membrane, most probably by differential interactions with microtubules. These results imply that regulated secretory granules may have unique membrane receptors for selective attachment to microtubules.

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