To gain insight into the mechanisms governing protein sorting, we have developed a system that reconstitutes both the formation of immature secretory granules and their fusion with the plasma membrane. Semi-intact PC12 cells were incubated with ATP and cytosol for 15 min to allow immature granules to form, and then in a buffer containing 30 microM [Ca2+]free to induce exocytosis. Transport via the regulated pathway, as assayed by the release of secretogranin II (SgII) labeled in the TGN, was inhibited by depletion of ATP, or by the inclusion of 100 microM GTP gamma S, 50 microM AlF3-5 or 5 micrograms/ml BFA. When added after immature granules had formed, GTP gamma S stimulated rather than inhibited exocytosis. Thus, exocytosis of immature granules in this system resembles the characteristics of fully matured granules. Transport of SgII via the regulated pathway occurred at a fourfold higher efficiency than glycosaminoglycan chains, indicating that SgII is sorted to some extent upon exit from the TGN. Addition of A23187 to release Ca2+ from the TGN had no significant effect on sorting of SgII into immature granules. In contrast, depletion of lumenal calcium inhibited the endoproteolytic cleavage of POMC and proinsulin. These results establish the importance of intra-cisternal Ca2+ in prohormone processing, but raise the question whether lumenal calcium is required for proper sorting of SgII into immature granules. Disruption of organelle pH gradients with an ionophore or a weak base resulted in the inhibition of transport via both the constitutive and the regulated pathways.

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