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Nat Cell Biol. 2004 Apr;6(4):297-307. Epub 2004 Mar 28.

Delivery of raft-associated, GPI-anchored proteins to the apical surface of polarized MDCK cells by a transcytotic pathway.

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Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Epithelial cell polarity depends on mechanisms for targeting proteins to different plasma membrane domains. Here, we dissect the pathway for apical delivery of several raft-associated, glycosyl phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins in polarized MDCK cells using live-cell imaging and selective inhibition of apical or basolateral exocytosis. Rather than trafficking directly from the trans-Golgi network (TGN) to the apical plasma membrane as previously thought, the GPI-anchored proteins followed an indirect, transcytotic route. They first exited the TGN in membrane-bound carriers that also contained basolateral cargo, although the two cargoes were laterally segregated. The carriers were then targeted to and fused with a zone of lateral plasma membrane adjacent to tight junctions that is known to contain the exocyst. Thereafter, the GPI-anchored proteins, but not basolateral cargo, were rapidly internalized, together with endocytic tracer, into clathrin-free transport intermediates that transcytosed to the apical plasma membrane. Thus, apical sorting of these GPI-anchored proteins occurs at the plasma membrane, rather than at the TGN.

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