In polarized epithelial cells and hepatocytes, apical and basolateral plasma membrane surfaces are maintained, each displaying a distinct molecular composition. In recent years, it has become apparent that a subapical compartment, referred to as SAC, plays a prominent if not crucial role in the domain-specific sorting and targeting of proteins and lipids that are in dynamic transit between these plasma membrane domains. Although the molecular identity of the traffic-regulating devices is still obscure, the organization of SAC in distinct subcompartments and/or subdomains may well be instrumental to such functions. In this review, we will focus on the potential subcompartmentalization of the SAC in terms of regulation of membrane traffic, on how SAC relates to the endosomal system, and on how this compartment may operate in the context of other intracellular sorting organelles such as the Golgi complex, in generating and maintaining cell polarity.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.