35S-cysteine injected adjacent to the supraoptic nucleus (SON) of the rat is rapidly incorporated into proteins. These 35S-cysteine-labeled proteins in the SON (1-24 h after injection) were separated by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and the distribution of radioactive proteins on the gels was analyzed. 1 h after injection, about 73% of the radioactivity appeared in two peaks (both about 20,000 mol wt). With time, these peaks (putative precursors of neurophysin) decreased, as a 12,000 mol wt peak (containing two distinct neurophysins) increased in radioactivity. Both the 20,000- and 12,000-mol wt proteins are transported into the axonal (median eminence) and nerve terminal (posterior pituitary) regions of the rat hypothalamo-neurohypophysial system. Conversion of the larger precursor protein to the smaller neurophysin appears to occur, in large part, intra-axonally during axonal transport. Six distinct 35S-cysteine-labeled peptides (less than 2500 mol wt), in addition to arginine vasopressin and oxytocin, are also synthesized in the SON and transported to the posterior pituitary where they are released together with labeled neurophysin by potassium depolarization in the presence of extracellular calcium. These data provide support for the hypothesis that the neurohypophysial peptides (vasopressin and oxytocin) and neurophysins are derived from the post-translational clevage of protein precursors synthesized in the SON, and that the conversion process can occur in the neurosecretory granule during axonal transport.

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