The development of polarized epithelial cells from unpolarized precursor cells follows induction of cell-cell contacts and requires resorting of proteins into different membrane domains. We show that in MDCK cells the distributions of two membrane proteins, Dg-1 and E-cadherin, become restricted to the basal-lateral membrane domain within 8 h of cell-cell contact. During this time, however, 60-80% of newly synthesized Dg-1 and E-cadherin is delivered directly to the forming apical membrane and then rapidly removed, while the remainder is delivered to the basal-lateral membrane and has a longer residence time. Direct delivery of greater than 95% of these proteins from the Golgi complex to the basal-lateral membrane occurs greater than 48 h later. In contrast, we show that two apical proteins are efficiently delivered and restricted to the apical cell surface within 2 h after cell-cell contact. These results provide insight into mechanisms involved in the development of epithelial cell surface polarity, and the establishment of protein sorting pathways in polarized cells.

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