Castanospermine, a plant alkaloid that inhibits the glycoprotein processing enzyme glucosidase I, has been used to inhibit N-linked oligosaccharide modification, resulting in the production of glycoproteins having Glc3Man7-9(GlcNAc)2 oligosaccharides. This alkaloid caused a significant inhibition of LDL endocytosis in cultured primate smooth muscle cells and human skin fibroblasts. At an optimum concentration of 250 μg/mL, castanospermine caused a 40% decrease in cell surface receptor-mediated LDL binding at 4 °C, with no apparent change in affinity. Further, the inhibitor had no direct effect on LDL metabolism. This inhibition of LDL receptor expression and function occurred only when the drug was present during de novo receptor synthesis, i.e., during up-regulation. Although the number of cell surface LDL receptors was significantly reduced in the presence of castanospermine, the total number of receptors in the cell was only slightly reduced, indicating that castanospermine induced a redistribution rather than a reduction in the number of receptors. Similarly, subcellular fractionation studies confirmed that castanospermine treatment of fibroblasts results in an altered distribution of receptor activity compared with controls. These findings are consistent with the conclusion that the decrease in specific LDL binding to cells grown in the presence of castanospermine is due to intracellular redistribution of the LDL receptor so that more receptor remains in internal compartments as a result of a diminished rate of transport.
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