The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) of rabbit skeletal muscle was studied after isolation of a vesicle fraction and of vesicular subfractions by means of differential and density gradient centrifugations. The different fractions were examined electron microscopically by negative and positive staining; their content in protein and phospholipid and their ability to bind Ca++ were determined. After homogenization, differential centrifugation yielded a "sarcovesicular fraction" (SVF) which was mainly composed of numerous vesicles of different types mixed with fibrous proteins and mitochondrial fragments. This SVF contained 2% of the protein and 25% of the phospholipid of the initial tissue extract. It had a high Ca++ binding activity that was preserved for several days by storage in the presence of oxalate. After centrifugations of the SVF on sucrose density gradients, two vesicular subfractions were obtained which were characterized by different sedimentation rates, isopycnic banding, morphology, and composition in protein and phospholipid. (a) The low-density subfraction (ρ 1.10–1.12) contained a heterogeneous population of membranous structures: thick- and thin-walled vesicles, tubular formations, triads, and plasma membranes. Its content in protein and phospholipid was very low. (b) The high-density subfraction (ρ 1.13–1.17) was a very pure subfraction composed only of thin-walled vesicles. Its content in phospholipid was high and the ratio of phospholipid-phosphorus to protein was about 20. The calcium-binding activity found in the total SVF was recovered only in this latter homogeneous subfraction. The origin of these two subfractions from the SR is discussed.

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