The envelope glycoproteins of Rous sarcoma virus (RSV), gp85 and gp37, are anchored in the membrane by a 27-amino acid, hydrophobic domain that lies adjacent to a 22-amino acid, cytoplasmic domain at the carboxy terminus of gp37. We have altered these cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains by introducing deletion mutations into the molecularly cloned sequences of a proviral env gene. The effects of the mutations on the transport and subcellular localization of the Rous sarcoma virus glycoproteins were examined in monkey (CV-1) cells using an SV40 expression vector. We found, on the one hand, that replacement of the nonconserved region of the cytoplasmic domain with a longer, unrelated sequence of amino acids (mutant C1) did not alter the rate of transport to the Golgi apparatus nor the appearance of the glycoprotein on the cell surface. Larger deletions, extending into the conserved region of the cytoplasmic domain (mutant C2), resulted in a slower rate of transport to the Golgi apparatus, but did not prevent transport to the cell surface. On the other hand, removal of the entire cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains (mutant C3) did block transport and therefore did not result in secretion of the truncated protein. Our results demonstrate that the C3 polypeptide was not transported to the Golgi apparatus, although it apparently remained in a soluble, nonanchored form in the lumen of the rough endoplasmic reticulum; therefore, it appears that this mutant protein lacks a functional sorting signal. Surprisingly, subcellular localization by internal immunofluorescence revealed that the C3 protein (unlike the wild type) did not accumulate on the nuclear membrane but rather in vesicles distributed throughout the cytoplasm. This observation suggests that the wild-type glycoproteins (and perhaps other membrane-bound or secreted proteins) are specifically transported to the nuclear membrane after their biosynthesis elsewhere in the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

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