A procedure employing streptolysin O to effect the selective permeabilization of either the apical or basolateral plasma membrane domains of MDCK cell monolayers grown on a filter support was developed which permeabilizes the entire monolayer, leaves the opposite cell surface domain intact, and does not abolish the integrity of the tight junctions. This procedure renders the cell interior accessible to exogenous macromolecules and impermeant reagents, permitting the examination of their effects on membrane protein transport to the intact surface. The last stages of the transport of the influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) to the apical surface were studied in pulse-labeled, virus-infected MDCK cells that were incubated at 19.5 degrees C for 90 min to accumulate newly synthesized HA in the trans-Golgi network (TGN), before raising the temperature to 35 degrees C to allow synchronized transport to the plasma membrane. In cells permeabilized immediately after the cold block, 50% of the intracellular HA molecules were subsequently delivered to the apical surface. This transport was dependent on the presence of an exogenous ATP supply and was markedly inhibited by the addition of GTP-gamma-S at the time of permeabilization. On the other hand, the GTP analogue had no effect when it was added to cells that, after the cold block, were incubated for 15 min at 35 degrees C before permeabilization, even though at this time most HA molecules were still intracellular and their appearance at the cell surface was largely dependent on exogenous ATP. These findings indicate that GTP-binding proteins are involved in the constitutive process that effects vesicular transport from the TGN to the plasma membrane and that they are charged early in this process. Transport of HA to the cell surface could be made dependent on the addition of exogenous cytosol when, after permeabilization, cells were washed to remove endogenous cytosolic components. This opens the way towards the identification of cell components that mediate the sorting of apical and basolateral membrane components in the TGN and their polarized delivery to the cell surface.

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