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Antibodies have been raised against synthetic peptides derived from the predicted primary sequence of the human cocaine- and antidepressant-sensitive norepinephrine (NE) transporter (NET). One antibody (N430), raised and purified against a putative intracellular human norepinephrine transporter (hNET) epitope, detects hNET expression in a stably transfected cell line (LLC-NET) by indirect immunofluorescence only in the presence of detergent, while no immunoreactivity is observed in either the parental cells (LLC-PK1) or in LLC-NET cells incubated with preimmune sera or peptide absorbed antibody. N430 immunoblots of LLC-NET cell extracts reveal two major immunoreactive hNET species in these cells, migrating at 80 and 54 kDa, respectively. Pulse-chase N430 immunoprecipitation studies confirm that the 54-kDa species is a transient, glycosylated intermediate of a longer lived, more highly glycosylated protein with an apparent M(r) of 80,000. In contrast, a 54-kDa species is the primary hNET product in vaccinia virus T7-infected HeLa cells, transiently transfected with hNET cDNA. PNGase F digestion of extracts prepared from LLC-NET- and hNET-transfected HeLa cells convert all immunoreactive species to a 46-kDa form, equivalent to that observed following incubation of whole cells with the glycosylation inhibitor tunicamycin. As transiently transfected HeLa and stable LLC-NET cells exhibit a pharmacologically similar NE transport activity, it appears likely that the additional glycosylation evident in the stable line does not contribute significantly to antagonist sensitivity. On the other hand, NE transport and antagonist ([125I]RTI-55) binding assays on whole LLC-NET cells treated with tunicamycin reveal a pronounced reduction in NE transport activity and hNET membrane density paralleled by an inability of NET proteins to replenish the higher M(r) hNET pool. These findings suggest an obligate role for N-linked glycosylation in hNET biosynthetic maturation, stability, and functional expression. In summary, N430 antibody is a useful tool for the visualization and characterization of hNET gene products and has permitted the first direct evaluation of biosynthetic steps leading to functional catecholamine transporter expression.