Cholesterol Is Required for Surface Transport of Influenza Virus Hemagglutinin

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Transport from the TGN to the basolateral surface involves a rab/N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion protein (NSF)/soluble NSF attachment protein (SNAP)/SNAP receptor (SNARE) mechanism. Apical transport instead is thought to be mediated by detergent-insoluble sphingolipid-cholesterol rafts. By reducing the cholesterol level of living cells by 60-70% with lovastatin and methyl-β-cyclodextrin, we show that the TGN-to-surface transport of the apical marker protein influenza virus hemagglutinin was slowed down, whereas the transport of the basolateral marker vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein as well as the ER-to-Golgi transport of both membrane proteins was not affected. Reduction of transport of hemagglutinin was accompanied by increased solubility in the detergent Triton X-100 and by significant missorting of hemagglutinin to the basolateral membrane. In addition, depletion of cellular cholesterol by lovastatin and methyl-β-cyclodextrin led to missorting of the apical secretory glycoprotein gp-80, suggesting that gp-80 uses a raft-dependent mechanism for apical sorting. Our data provide for the first time direct evidence for the functional significance of cholesterol in the sorting of apical membrane proteins as well as of apically secreted glycoproteins.

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