A mouse anterior pituitary tumor cell line (AtT-20) that secretes adrenocorticotropin and beta endorphin sorts the proteins it transports to the surface into two exocytotic pathways. AtT-20 cells also synthesize a secretory granule-specific sulfated molecule and secrete it on stimulation (Moore, H.-P., B. Gumbiner, and R. B. Kelly, 1983, J. Cell Biol., 97:810-817). We show here that this molecule is sensitive to proteolysis and that the residual sulfated material co-migrates with a chondroitin sulfate standard on thin-layer electrophoresis. Furthermore, this sulfated molecule is completely sensitive to chondroitinase ABC digestion. Thus the secretory granule-specific sulfated molecule is a proteoglycan with chondroitin sulfate side chains. We examined the role of proteoglycans in the sorting and secretion of adrenocorticotropin in AtT-20 cells by severely decreasing the amount of this vesicle-specific proteoglycan in two ways. First, a xyloside was used to inhibit proteoglycan biosynthesis; second, a variant of the AtT-20 cell line was isolated that synthesized little of the sulfated proteoglycan. In neither case was the sorting or secretion of adrenocorticotropin detectably altered, suggesting that the proteoglycan is not required for these processes.

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