Rat microsomal aldehyde dehydrogenase (msALDH) has no amino-terminal signal sequence, but instead it has a characteristic hydrophobic domain at the carboxyl terminus (Miyauchi, K., R. Masaki, S. Taketani, A. Yamamoto, A. Akayama, and Y. Tashiro. 1991. J. Biol. Chem. 266:19536-19542). This membrane-bound enzyme is a useful model protein for studying posttranslational localization to its final destination. When expressed from cDNA in COS-1 cells, wild-type msALDH is localized exclusively in the well-developed ER. The removal of the hydrophobic domain results in the cytosolic localization of truncated proteins, thus suggesting that the portion is responsible for membrane anchoring. The last 35 amino acids of msALDH, including the hydrophobic domain, are sufficient for targeting of E. coli beta-galactosidase to the ER membrane. Further studies using chloramphenicol acetyltransferase fusion proteins suggest that two hydrophilic sequences on either side of the hydrophobic domain play an important role in ER targeting.

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