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Exp Cell Res. 1995 Nov;221(1):214-20.

Ricin toxicity and intracellular routing in tumoral HT-29 cells. II. Differential ricin toxicity from the apical and basolateral surfaces of differentiated HT-29 cells.

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INSERM U 180, CNRS UAC 71, Centre Universitaire des Saints-Pères, Université René Descartes, Paris, France.


We previously showed that ricin, a toxin commonly used in the construction of immunotoxins, was more toxic to undifferentiated than to differentiated HT-29 tumoral cells. This results from differences in the intracellular routings of the toxin. As these studies concerned the entry through the apical pole of differentiated polarized HT-29 cells, we investigated and compared the intracellular routing of ricin from the apical and basolateral membranes of differentiated HT-29 cells and the toxicity of ricin depending on the pole of administration. For this purpose, we developed the culture of polarized HT-29 cells on porous membrane filters and demonstrated that differentiated HT-29 cells can establish a leakproof monolayer. Ricin is 2.5-fold less toxic when it is added at the basolateral than at the apical pole of the cells, which may result from different observations: (1) less ricin is bound at the basolateral membrane than at the apical one, leading to a lesser internalization of the toxin; (2) ricin sorting in the apical and basolateral endocytic compartments of HT-29 cells differs: apically internalized ricin is targeted intracellularly while basolaterally internalized ricin uses mainly the transcytotic pathway; using NH4Cl and monensin, we observed that ricin follows the same pathway from both sides of the cells, namely the endosomal system, to reach the Golgi apparatus from which toxin intoxication occurs; (3) kinetics studies showed that a delay exists before an efficient intoxication by the basolateral pole is observed. The use of monensin at low concentration in order to perturb only the Golgi functions indicated that this delay could account for a different presentation of the toxin toward the membrane of the apical and basolateral endocytic compartments. Together, our results showed that, in differentiated HT-29 cells, if the pathways carrying ricin from the apical and basolateral membranes to the Golgi apparatus appear identical, ricin exerts differentially its toxicity depending upon the surface of administration, i.e., the apical or the basolateral surface of the cells.

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