We have used quantitative electron microscope autoradiography to study uptake and distribution of arachidonate in HSDM1C1 murine fibrosarcoma cells and in EPU-1B, a mutant HSDM1C1 line defective in high affinity arachidonate uptake. Cells were labeled with [3H]arachidonate for 15 min, 40 min, 2 h, or 24 h. Label was found almost exclusively in cellular phospholipids; 92-96% of incorporated radioactivity was retained in cells during fixation and tissue processing. All incorporated radioactivity was found to be associated with cellular membranes. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) contained the bulk of [3H]arachidonate at all time points in both cell types, while mitochondria, which contain a large portion of cellular membrane, were labeled slowly and to substantially lower specific activity. Plasma membrane (PM) also labeled slowly, achieving a specific activity only one-sixth that of ER at 15 min in HSDM1C1 cells (6% of total label) and one-third of ER in EPU-1B (10% of total label). Nuclear membrane (NM) exhibited the highest specific activity of labeling at 15 min in HSDM1C1 cells (twice that of ER) but was not preferentially labeled in the mutant. Over 24 h, PM label intensity increased to that of ER in both cell lines. However, NM activity diminished in HSDM1C1 cells by 24 h to a small fraction of that in ER. In response to agonists, HSDM1C1 cells release labeled arachidonate for eicosanoid synthesis most readily when they have been labeled for short times. Our results therefore suggest that NM and ER, sites of cyclooxygenase in murine fibroblasts, are probably sources for release of [3H]arachidonate, whereas PM and mitochondria are unlikely to be major sources of eicosanoid precursors.

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