We studied the effects of changes in microtubule assembly status upon the intracellular transport of an integral membrane protein from the rough endoplasmic reticulum to the plasma membrane. The protein was the G glycoprotein of vesicular stomatitis virus in cells infected with the Orsay-45 temperature-sensitive mutant of the virus; the synchronous intracellular transport of the G protein could be initiated by a temperature shift-down protocol. The intracellular and surface-expressed G protein were separately detected and localized in the same cells at different times after the temperature shift, by double-immunofluorescence microscopic measurements, and the extent of sialylation of the G protein at different times was quantitated by immunoprecipitation and SDS PAGE of [35S]methionine-labeled cell extracts. Neither complete disassembly of the cytoplasmic microtubules by nocodazole treatment, nor the radical reorganization of microtubules upon taxol treatment, led to any perceptible changes in the rate or extent of G protein sialylation, nor to any marked changes in the rate or extent of surface appearance of the G protein. However, whereas in control cells the surface expression of G was polarized, at membrane regions in juxtaposition to the perinuclear compact Golgi apparatus, in cells with disassembled microtubules the surface expression of the G protein was uniform, corresponding to the intracellular dispersal of the elements of the Golgi apparatus. The mechanisms of transfer of integral proteins from the rough endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi apparatus, and from the Golgi apparatus to the plasma membrane, are discussed in the light of these observations, and compared with earlier studies of the intracellular transport of secretory proteins.

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