Bulk flow revisited: transport of a soluble protein in the secretory pathway

Traffic. 2009 Dec;10(12):1819-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2009.00989.x. Epub 2009 Sep 16.


The C-terminal domain, Cp, of the Semliki Forest virus capsid protein, known for its rapid, efficient and chaperone-independent folding, was used to measure bulk fluid flow in the secretory pathway of Chinese hamster ovary cells. Being small, nonglycosylated, soluble and cytoplasmic in origin, Cp was not likely to interact with lectins, cargo receptors and retention factors. Using pulse-chase analysis, we observed that translocation into the endoplasmic reticulum resulted in rapid and efficient folding and transport of the newly synthesized Cp protein to the extracellular medium. The first Cp molecules were secreted 15 min after synthesis, which is the fastest transport of a protein so far recorded in mammalian cells. The rate constant of secretion was 1.2% per min, which amounts to an estimated bulk flow rate of about 155 coat protein II (COPII) vesicles per second. Transport was independent of expression level, and blocked by CI-976, brefeldin A and ATP depletion indicating that it depended on COPII vesicle formation, and followed the classical secretory pathway. In polarized Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, the secretion rate was similar but occurred mainly apically. The results demonstrated that fluid flow in the secretory pathway is fast, and can therefore play a significant role in the secretion of soluble secretory products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Capsid
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Transport
  • Semliki forest virus / metabolism*
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism*


  • Viral Proteins