Journal of cell science

Selective localization of the polytopic membrane protein prominin in microvilli of epithelial cells - a combination of apical sorting and retention in plasma membrane protrusions.

PMID 10198284


Prominin is a recently identified polytopic membrane protein expressed in various epithelial cells, where it is selectively associated with microvilli. When expressed in non-epithelial cells, prominin is enriched in plasma membrane protrusions. This raises the question of whether the selective association of prominin with microvilli in epithelial cells is solely due to its preference for, and stabilization in, plasma membrane protrusions, or is due to both sorting to the apical plasma membrane domain and subsequent enrichment in plasma membrane protrusions. To investigate this question, we have generated stably transfected MDCK cells expressing either full-length or C-terminally truncated forms of mouse prominin. Confocal immunofluorescence and domain-selective cell surface biotinylation experiments on transfected MDCK cells grown on permeable supports demonstrated the virtually exclusive apical localization of prominin at steady state. Pulse-chase experiments in combination with domain-selective cell surface biotinylation showed that newly synthesized prominin was directly targeted to the apical plasma membrane domain. Immunoelectron microscopy revealed that prominin was confined to microvilli rather than the planar region of the apical plasma membrane. Truncation of the cytoplasmic C-terminal tail of prominin impaired neither its apical cell surface expression nor its selective retention in microvilli. Both the apical-specific localization of prominin and its selective retention in microvilli were maintained when MDCK cells were cultured in low-calcium medium, i.e. in the absence of tight junctions. Taken together, our results show that: (i) prominin contains dual targeting information, for direct delivery to the apical plasma membrane domain and for the enrichment in the microvillar subdomain; and (ii) this dual targeting does not require the cytoplasmic C-terminal tail of prominin and still occurs in the absence of tight junctions. The latter observation suggests that entry into, and retention in, plasma membrane protrusions may play an important role in the establishment and maintenance of the apical-basal polarity of epithelial cells.

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