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The effects of brefeldin A (BFA) on membrane traffic between the trans-Golgi network (TGN) and the plasma membrane were investigated in intact PC12 cells and in a cell-free system derived from PC12 cells. In intact cells, BFA caused a virtually complete block of constitutive secretion, as indicated by the lack of release from, and accumulation in, the cells of a [35S]sulfate-labeled heparan sulfate proteoglycan (hsPG). Pulse-chase experiments with [35S]sulfate followed by subcellular fractionation showed that this block was due to the inhibition of formation of constitutive secretory vesicles (CSVs) from the TGN. BFA did not block the depolarization-induced release of [35S]sulfate-labeled chromogranin B (CgB) and secretogranin II (SgII) from secretory granules formed prior to the addition of the drug, showing that BFA does not block secretory granule fusion with the plasma membrane. The presence of BFA did, however, prevent the appearance of [35S]sulfate-labeled CgB and SgII in secretory granules, indicating that the drug inhibits the formation of secretory granules from the TGN. Evidence for a direct block of vesicle formation by BFA was obtained using a cell-free system derived from [35S]sulfate-labeled PC12 cells. In this system, low concentrations of BFA (5 micrograms/ml) inhibited the formation of the hsPG-containing CSVs and that of the SgII-containing secretory granules from the TGN to the same extent (50-60%) as, and in a non-additive manner with, the nonhydrolyzable GTP analogue GTP gamma S. Consistent with the inhibitory effects of BFA on vesicle formation from the TGN, BFA treatment of intact PC12 cells led to the hypersialylation of CgB, which presumably was due to the increased residence time of the protein in the TGN. In conclusion, our data are consistent with, and allow the generalization of, the concept that the BFA-induced block of anterograde membrane traffic results from the inhibition of vesicle formation from a donor compartment.


Journal article


Eur J Cell Biol

Publication Date





265 - 274


Animals, Brefeldin A, Cell Membrane, Cell-Free System, Centrifugation, Density Gradient, Cyclopentanes, Cytoplasmic Granules, Golgi Apparatus, PC12 Cells, Subcellular Fractions, Sulfur Radioisotopes