The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is unique among epithelia in that its apical surface does not face a lumen, but, instead, is specialized for interaction with the neural retina. The molecules involved in the interaction of the RPE with the neural retina are not known. We show here that the neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) is found both on the apical surface of RPE in situ and on the outer segments of photoreceptors, fulfilling an important requisite for an adhesion role between both structures. Strikingly, culture of RPE results in rapid redistribution of N-CAM to the basolateral surface. This is not due to an isoform shift, since the N-CAM expressed by cultured cells (140 kD) is the same as that expressed by RPE in vivo. Rather, the reversed polarity of N-CAM appears to result from the disruption of the contact between the RPE and the photoreceptors of the neural retina. We suggest that N-CAM in RPE and photoreceptors participate in these interactions.
In neuronal and endocrine cells, peptide hormones are selectively segregated into storage granules, while other proteins are exported continuously without storage. Sorting of hormones by cellular machinery involves the recognition of specific structural domains on prohormone molecules. Since the propeptide of insulin is known to play an important role in its three-dimensional structure, it is reasonable to speculate that targeting of proinsulin to storage granules would require a functional connecting peptide. To test this hypothesis, we constructed two mutations in human proinsulin with different predicted structures. In one mutation, Ins delta C, the entire C peptide was deleted, resulting in an altered insulin in which the B and the A chains are joined contiguously. In the other mutation, Ins/IGF, the C peptide of proinsulin was replaced with the unrelated 12-amino acid connecting peptide of human insulin-like growth factor-I; this substitution should permit correct folding of the B and A chains to form a tertiary structure similar to that of proinsulin. By several biochemical and morphological criteria, we found that Ins/IGF is efficiently targeted to storage granules, suggesting that the C peptide of proinsulin does not contain necessary sorting information. Unexpectedly, Ins delta C, which presumably cannot fold properly, is also targeted to granules at a high efficiency. These results imply that either the targeting machinery can tolerate changes in the tertiary structure of transported proteins, or that the B and A chains of insulin can form a relatively intact three-dimensional structure even in the absence of C peptide.