Polarized epithelial cells secrete proteins at either the apical or basolateral cell surface. A number of non-epithelial secretory proteins also exhibit polarized secretion when they are expressed in polarized epithelial cells but it is difficult to predict where foreign proteins will be secreted in epithelial cells. The question is of interest since secretory epithelia are considered as target tissues for gene therapy protocols that aim to express therapeutic secretory proteins. In the parathyroid gland, parathyroid hormone is processed by furin and co-stored with chromogranin A in secretory granules. To test the secretion of these proteins in epithelial cells, they were expressed in MDCK cells. Chromogranin A and a secreted form of furin were secreted apically while parathyroid hormone was secreted 60% basolaterally. However, in the presence of chromogranin A, the secretion of parathyroid hormone was 65% apical, suggesting that chromogranin can act as a "sorting escort" (sorting chaperone) for parathyroid hormone. Conversely, apically secreted furin did not affect the sorting of parathyroid hormone. The apical secretion of chromogranin A was dependent on cholesterol, suggesting that this protein uses an established cellular sorting mechanism for apical secretion. However, this sorting does not involve the N-terminal membrane-binding domain of chromogranin A. These results suggest that foreign secretory proteins can be used as "sorting escorts" to direct secretory proteins to the apical secretory pathway without altering the primary structure of the secreted protein. Such a system may be of use in the targeted expression of secretory proteins from epithelial cells.
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Acknowledgments We thank Dr. Henry Kronenberg, Harvard University, for providing us with human preproPTH cDNA and Dr. Robert Mackin, Creighton University for the truncated mouse furin cDNA. Drs. Martin Zabe and William Dean, University of Louisville are thanked for help with the floatation gradients. This work was supported in part by PHS grants T32DE07254-08 (BHF, DVC), R01 DK53367 (DVC), and DE12205 (SUG).
- Chromogranin A