The Journal of biological chemistry

Localization of O-glycan initiation, sphingomyelin synthesis, and glucosylceramide synthesis in Vero cells with respect to the endoplasmic reticulum-Golgi intermediate compartment.

PMID 8307959


The identification of an endoplasmic reticulum-Golgi intermediate compartment (ERGIC), defined by the 53-kDa transmembrane marker protein ERGIC-53, has added to the complexity of the exocytic pathway of higher eukaryotic cells. Recently, a subcellular fractionation procedure was established for the isolation of the ERGIC from Vero cells (Schweizer, A., Matter, K., Ketcham, C. M., and Hauri, H.-P. (1991) J. Cell Biol. 113, 45-54) which provides a means to study more precisely the compartmentalization of the various enzymic functions along the early secretory pathway. Here, we have investigated if O-glycan initiation and sphingomyelin synthesis are associated with the ERGIC by analyzing both the responsible enzyme activities and their corresponding products. Moreover, the synthesis of glucosylceramide, the precursor of most glycosphingolipids, was also analyzed. In the purified ERGIC fraction UDP-GalNAc:polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase (GalNAc transferase) was only minimally enriched, sphingomyelin synthase was not enriched, and UDP-glucose:ceramide-glucosyl transferase specific activity was lower than in the homogenate. On Percoll gradients all three enzymes cofractionated with Golgi markers rather than ERGIC-53. Accordingly, sphingomyelin concentrations were extremely low in the ERGIC fraction. Double immunofluorescence localization of core N-acetylgalactosamine, the product of GalNAc transferase, by monoclonal antibodies against GalNAc-Ser/Thr (Tn antigen) revealed only little apparent overlap with ERGIC-53. This was particularly evident in brefeldin A-treated cells which showed entirely different patterns of Tn antigens and ERGIC-53. The results suggest that in the secretory pathway of Vero cells O-glycan initiation and sphingomyelin as well as glucosylceramide synthesis mainly occur beyond the ERGIC in the Golgi apparatus.