One model of neuronal polarity (Dotti and Simons, 1990) proposes that neurons and polarized epithelia use similar mechanisms to sort membrane proteins. To explore this hypothesis, we used viral vectors to express proteins in cultured neurons and assessed their distribution using quantitative immunofluorescence microscopy. Basolateral epithelial proteins were polarized to dendrites; more significantly, mutations of sequences required for their basolateral targeting in epithelia also disrupted dendritic targeting. Unexpectedly, apical proteins were not polarized to axons but were expressed at roughly equal amounts in dendrites and axons. These data provide strong evidence that targeting of basolateral and dendritic proteins depends on common mechanisms. In contrast, the sorting of proteins to the axon requires signals that are not present in apical proteins.
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