Efficient transport of cell surface glycoproteins to the Golgi apparatus has been previously demonstrated for a limited number of proteins, and has been proposed to require selective sorting in the endocytic pathway after internalization. We have studied the endocytic fate of several glycoproteins that accumulate in different organelles in a variant clone of PC12, a regulated secretory cell line. The cation-independent mannose 6-phosphate receptor and the low density lipoprotein receptor, both rapidly internalized from the cell surface, and the synaptic vesicle membrane protein synaptophysin, were transported to the Golgi apparatus with equivalent, nonlinear kinetics. Transport to the Golgi apparatus (t1/2 = 2.5-3.0 h) was several times faster than turnover of these proteins (t1/2 greater than or equal to 20 h), indicating that transport of these proteins to the Golgi apparatus occurred on average several times for each protein. In contrast, Thy-1, a protein anchored in the membrane by a glycosylphosphoinositide group, was internalized and transported to the Golgi apparatus more slowly than the three transmembrane proteins. Since each of the transmembrane proteins studied showed the same t1/2 for transport to the Golgi apparatus, we conclude that transport of these proteins from the cell surface to the Golgi apparatus does not require sorting information specific to any one of these proteins. These results suggest that one of the functions of late endosomes is constitutive recycling of cell surface receptors through the Golgi apparatus if they fail to recycle to the cell surface directly from early endosomes, and that the late endosome recycling pathway is followed frequently by many rapidly internalized proteins.

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