This communication presents a morphological study of the changes in ribosome content and organization which occur during the maturation of erythroid cells of the phenylhydrazine-treated rabbit. Electron micrographs of thin sectioned nucleated and non-nucleated erythroid cells have been subjected to a quantitative analysis of the distribution of ribosomes as polyribosomes of various sizes and as single ribosomes. The ribosomes of nucleated erythroid cells of marrow are virtually all arranged in the polyribosome configuration consisting of clusters of 2 to 6 individual ribosomes. These cells are the most active in the erythroid series in protein biosynthesis. During maturation to the non-nucleated reticulocyte stage, found in the circulating blood, there is a decrease in protein synthesizing capacity, a fall in total ribosome content, and, more significantly, a decrease in the number and size of polyribosomes. Maturation to the ribosome-free erythrocyte, either under in vitro or in vivo conditions, entails a further decrease in protein synthesis which correlates with a progressive disaggregation of the biosynthetically active polyribosomes into smaller clusters and inactive single ribosomes. Possible models which may account for the stability of the polyribosome and for the mechanism of polyribosome dissociation are discussed.

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