Tunicamycin, an antibiotic that prevents glycosylation of glycoproteins by blocking the formation of N-acetylglucosamine-lipid intermediates, was used to study the importance of glycosylation for the secretion of immunoglobulins by mouse plasmacytoma lines that produce immunoglobulins of different classes. Biosynthetically labeled secreted and intracellular immunoglobulins were measured by immunoprecipitation assays. Tunicamycin, at a concentration of 0.5 µg/ml produced an 81% inhibition of IgM secretion by MOPC 104E plasma cells without significantly affecting the initial rate of synthesis of intracellular IgM. No increase in the intracellular degradation of nonglycosylated IgM could be demonstrated. Tunicamycin also produced a 64% average inhibition of IgA secretion by several mouse IgA-secreting plasmacytoma lines. In contrast, despite inhibiting the incorporation of D-[14C] glucosamine into newly synthesized IgG, tunicamycin only produced a 28% average inhibition of IgG secretion, which was only slightly more than the nonspecific inhibition of secretion of the normally nonglycosylated λ2 light chains by variant MOPC 315 plasmacytomas. These data indicate that the extent of inhibition of immunoglobulin secretion produced by tunicamycin depends on the immunoglobulin class produced by the plasma cell.

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