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Cell. 1991 Nov 1;67(3):591-600.

Brefeldin A causes a microtubule-mediated fusion of the trans-Golgi network and early endosomes.

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  • 1Section of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14850.


Brefeldin A (BFA) is a fungal metabolite that causes a redistribution of the stacked cisternae of the Golgi complex into the endoplasmic reticulum by inhibiting anterograde transport. We report that BFA also causes membrane tubules derived from the trans-Golgi network (TGN) to fuse with early endosomes. In the presence of BFA, a mannose-6-phosphate receptor (M6PR)-enriched tubular network rapidly forms from the TGN, not from the prelysosomal compartment, and can be labeled with endocytic tracers after only 5 min of uptake at either 20 degrees C or 37 degrees C, indicating that it is also functionally an early endosome. Formation of the TGN-early endosome network is microtubule dependent and may involve modification of membrane processes affected by microtubule-associated motor activity. Concomitant with the formation of the fused TGN-early endosome network, there is a greater than 5-fold increase in cell surface M6PRs. The data suggest that BFA has revealed a membrane transport cycle between the TGN and early endosomes, perhaps used for the secretion or delivery of molecules to the cell surface.

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