Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular pathogen that multiples within the confines of a membrane-bound vacuole called an inclusion. Approximately 40-50% of the sphingomyelin synthesized from exogenously added NBD-ceramide is specifically transported from the Golgi apparatus to the chlamydial inclusion (Hackstadt, T., M.A. Scidmore, and D.D. Rockey. 1995. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 92: 4877-4881). Given this major disruption of a cellular exocytic pathway and the similarities between glycolipid and glycoprotein exocytosis, we wished to determine whether the processing and trafficking of glycoproteins through the Golgi apparatus to the plasma membrane in chlamydia-infected cells was also disrupted. We analyzed the processing of several model glycoproteins including vesicular stomatitis virus G-protein, transferrin receptor, and human histocompatibility leukocyte class I antigen. In infected cells, the posttranslational processing and trafficking of these specific proteins through the Golgi apparatus and subsequent transport to the plasma membrane was not significantly impaired, nor were these glycoproteins found associated with the chlamydial inclusion membrane. Studies of receptor recycling from endocytic vesicles employing fluorescently and HRP-tagged transferrin and anti-transferrin receptor antibody revealed an increased local concentration of transferrin and transferrin receptor around but never within the chlamydial inclusion. However, Scatchard analysis failed to show either an increased intracellular accumulation of transferrin receptor or a decreased number of plasma membrane receptors in infected cells. Furthermore, the rate of exocytosis from the recycling endosomes to the plasma membrane was not altered in chlamydia-infected cells. Thus, although C. trachomatis disrupts the exocytosis of sphingolipids and the Golgi apparatus appears physically distorted, glycosylation and exocytosis of representative secreted and endocytosed proteins are not disrupted. These results suggest the existence of a previously unrecognized sorting of sphingolipids and glycoproteins in C. trachomatis-infected cells.

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