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J Biol Chem. 2004 Feb 20;279(8):6244-51. Epub 2003 Nov 27.

Unconventional secretion of fibroblast growth factor 2 is mediated by direct translocation across the plasma membrane of mammalian cells.

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  • 1Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center, Im Neuenheimer Feld 328, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2) is a pro-angiogenic mediator that is secreted by both normal and neoplastic cells. Intriguingly, FGF-2 has been shown to be exported by an endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi-independent pathway; however, the molecular machinery mediating this process has remained elusive. Here we introduce a novel in vitro system that functionally reconstitutes FGF-2 secretion. Based on affinity-purified plasma membrane inside-out vesicles, we demonstrate post-translational membrane translocation of FGF-2 as shown by protease protection experiments. This process is blocked at low temperature but apparently does not appear to be driven by ATP hydrolysis. FGF-2 membrane translocation occurs in a unidirectional fashion requiring both integral and peripheral membrane proteins. These findings provide direct evidence that FGF-2 secretion is based on its direct translocation across the plasma membrane of mammalian cells. When galectin-1 and macrophage migration inhibitory factor, other proteins exported by unconventional means, were analyzed for translocation into plasma membrane inside-out vesicles, galectin-1 was found to be transported as efficiently as FGF-2. By contrast, migration inhibitory factor failed to traverse the membrane of inside-out vesicles. These findings establish the existence of multiple distinct secretory routes that are operational in the absence of a functional endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi system.

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