BFA inhibited in a dose dependent way the assembly of apoB-48 very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) but allowed a normal rate of biosynthesis of the apolipoprotein and of the assembly of the dense ("high density lipoprotein (HDL)-like") apoB-48 particle (apoB-48 HDL). The inhibition of the assembly of apoB-48 VLDL occurred at BFA levels that allowed a major secretion of both transferrin and apoB-48 HDL. The assembly of apoB-100 containing lipoproteins was also inhibited by BFA but could be reactivated by a 30-60 min chase in the absence of BFA, which agreed with the time that was estimated to be needed to restore the secretory pathway (approximately 60 min). Also the assembly of apoB-48 VLDL was reversible. Both apoB-48 and apoB-100 that was labeled in the presence of BFA assembled VLDL after removal of the BFA. Both apoB-100 and apoB-48 were associated with the membrane pellet of the microsomes. Virtually all (122 +/- 30%) of the membrane associated pulse-labeled apoB-48 remained in the membrane after a 180-min chase in the presence of BFA, compared to only 21 +/- 2% in normal cells (mean +/- S.D., n = 4). The corresponding figures for apoB-100 was 40 +/- 7% in BFA-treated cells and 9 +/- 7% in normal cells (mean +/- S.D., n = 4). Pulse-chase experiments with BFA offered conditions to selectively follow the turnover of membrane-associated apoB-100. Such experiments indicated that this apoB-100 pool is a precursor to VLDL.