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FEBS Lett. 1999 Jun 25;453(3):391-4.

N-glycans are not a universal signal for apical sorting of secretory proteins.

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Centre for Immunology, University of New South Wales and St. Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia.


In MDCK cells, N-glycans have been shown to determine the sorting of secretory proteins and membrane proteins to the apical domain in the absence of a dominant basolateral targeting signal. We have examined the sorting of endogenous proteins in ECV304 cells in the presence and absence of tunicamycin, an inhibitor of N-linked glycosylation. A prominent apically secreted protein of 71 kDa was not N-glycosylated and continued to be secreted apically in the presence of tunicamycin. In contrast, other endogenous proteins that were N-glycosylated were secreted preferentially into the basolateral medium or without polarity. When rat growth hormone was expressed in MDCK and ECV304 cells, we observed 65 and 94% of the secretion to the basolateral medium, respectively. Introduction of a single N-glycan caused 83% of the growth hormone to be secreted at the apical surface in MDCK cells but had no significant effect on the polarity of secretion of growth hormone in ECV304 cells. These results indicate that not all cell lines recognise N-glycans as a signal for apical sorting and raises the possibility of using ECV304 cells as a model system for analysis of apical sorting molecules.

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