Previous studies have shown that anti microtubule agents disrupt Golgi complexes in hepatocytes and other cells, causing breakdown or vesiculation of Golgi cisternal membranes. Whether this change in the structure of the Golgi membranes is associated with changes in Golgi membrane function is not known. The present study was initiated to investigate this issue; i.e., to determine whether anti-microtubule agents that cause structural changes in Golgi membranes in vivo would, at the same time, affect characteristic enzyme functions of Golgi membranes. To this end, colchicine was given to young rats in vivo and various hepatic subcellular membranes were subsequently isolated and utilized for enzyme assays. Initially it was shown that colchicine (2.5 mg/kg body wt.) given for 5h significantly decreased the activities of the Golgi membrane associated enzymes galactosyl-, sialyl- and N-acetylglucosaminyl-transferases. More detailed experiments indicated that low doses of colchicine (0.8 mg/kg body wt.), although less effective than higher doses, decreased the activities of the terminal glycosylating enzymes maximally at 5h, with partial and complete recovery at 12 and 24h respectively. Treatment in vivo of rats with vinblastine (20 mg/kg body wt.) for 5h mimicked the action of colchicine. Two microsomal glycosylating enzymes (mannosyl and N acetylglucosaminyl transferases) were unaffected by the treatment with colchicine, as were various hepatic ‘marker’ enzymes such as 5′ nucleotidase, glucose 6 phosphatase and succinate: 2-(p iodophenyl)-3-(p nitrophenyl)-5-phenyltetrazolium reductase (succinate dehydrogenase; EC 1.3.99.1), which were found to be enriched in plasma membrane, endoplasmic-reticulum and mitochondrial-membrane fractions respectively. These results show that anti-microtubule agents specifically suppress the activity of Golgi-associated glycosyltransferases in liver. Although it seems likely that these changes are related to the previously observed structural changes in hepatocyte Golgi complexes after colchicine treatment, to what extent the results are linked to the interaction of colchicine with microtubule protein remains to be clarified.

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