A polarized cell, to maintain distinct basolateral and apical membrane domains, must tightly regulate vesicular traffic terminating at either membrane domain. In this study we have examined the extent to which microtubules regulate such traffic in polarized cells. Using the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor expressed in polarized MDCK cells, we have examined the effects of nocodazole, a microtubule-disrupting agent, on three pathways that deliver proteins to the apical surface and two pathways that deliver proteins to the basolateral surface. The biosynthetic and transcytotic pathways to the apical surface are dramatically altered by nocodazole in that a portion of the protein traffic on each of these two pathways is misdirected to the basolateral surface. The apical recycling pathway is slowed in the presence of nocodazole but targeting is not disrupted. In contrast, the biosynthetic and recycling pathways to the basolateral surface are less affected by nocodazole and therefore appear to be more resistant to microtubule disruption.

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