Autocrine motility factor receptor (AMF-R) is a marker for a distinct smooth membranous tubule. Ilimaquinone (IQ) is a sea sponge metabolite which induces the complete vesiculation of the Golgi apparatus and we show here that the addition of IQ to MDCK cells also results in the disruption of the AMF-R tubule. By immunofluorescence microscopy, the resultant punctate AMF-R label resembles the products of IQ-mediated vesiculation of the trans-Golgi network, however, the two labels can be distinguished by confocal microscopy. AMF-R tubule fragmentation occurs after nocodazole or taxol treatment of the cells demonstrating that the action of IQ on AMF-R tubules is not related to the ability of IQ to depolymerize microtubules. IQ activity is therefore not Golgi-specific. Electron microscopy of IQ-treated cells reveals that AMF-R is distributed to fenestrated networks of narrow interconnected tubules which are distinguishable from the uniform Golgi-derived vesicles and morphologically equivalent to smooth ER. Distinct fenestrations are visible in incompletely fragmented tubules which may represent intermediates in the fragmentation process. Smooth AMF-R labeled tubules exhibit continuity with rough ER cisternae and IQ selectively targets smooth and not rough ER. AMF-R tubules can be distinguished from the intermediate compartment labeled for ERGIC-53 by confocal microscopy and thus constitute a distinct IQ-sensitive subdomain of the smooth ER.

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