Regulation of protein traffic in polarized epithelial cells

Bioessays. 1995 Feb;17(2):129-38. doi: 10.1002/bies.950170208.


The plasma membrane of polarized epithelial cells is divided into apical and basolateral surfaces, with different compositions. Proteins can be sent directly from the trans-Golgi network (TGN) to either surface, or can be sent first to one surface and then transcytosed to the other. The glycosyl phosphatidylinositol anchor is a signal for apical targeting. Signals in the cytoplasmic domain containing a beta-turn determine basolateral targeting and retrieval, and are related to other sorting signals. Transcytosed proteins, such as the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR), are endocytosed from the basolateral surface and then accumulate in a tubular compartment concentrated underneath the apical surface. This compartment, tentatively termed the apical recycling compartment, may be a central sorting station, as it apparently receives material from both surfaces and sorts them for delivery to the correct surface. Delivery to the apical surface from both the TGN and the apical recycling compartment appears to be regulated by protein kinases A and C, and endocytosis from the apical surface is also regulated by kinases. Transcytosis of the pIgR is additionally regulated by phosphorylation of the pIgR and by ligand binding to the pIgR. Regulation of traffic in polarized epithelial cells plays a central role in cellular homeostasis, response to external signals and differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Epithelium / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Proteins / physiology


  • Proteins