When fluid-phase markers are internalized from opposite poles of polarized Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, they accumulate in distinct apical and basolateral early endosomes before meeting in late endosomes. Recent evidence suggests that significant mixing of apically and basolaterally internalized membrane proteins occurs in specialized apical endosomal compartments, including the common recycling endosome and the apical recycling endosome (ARE). The relationship between these latter compartments and the fluid-labeled apical early endosome is unknown at present. We report that when the apical recycling marker, membrane-bound immunoglobulin A (a ligand for the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor), and fluid-phase dextran are cointernalized from the apical poles of Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, they enter a shared apical early endosome (≤2.5 min at 37°C) and are then rapidly segregated from one another. The dextran remains in the large supranuclear EEA1-positive early endosomes while recycling polymeric immunoglobulin receptor–bound immunoglobulin A is delivered to a Rab11-positive subapical recycling compartment. This latter step requires an intact microtubule cytoskeleton. Receptor-bound transferrin, a marker of the basolateral recycling pathway, has limited access to the fluid-rich apical early endosome but is excluded from the subapical elements of the Rab11-positive recycling compartment. We propose that the term ARE be used to describe the subapical Rab11-positive compartment and that the ARE is distinct from both the transferrin-rich common recycling endosome and the fluid-rich apical early endosome
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