Electron microscope autoradiography was used to study glycoprotein synthesis in cellular trophoblast (cytotrophoblast) and syncytial trophoblast of term human placental villi incubated in vitro with D-[1-3H]galactose ([3H]gal). Autoradiographs were analyzed using the hypothetical grain analysis of Blackett and Parry (1973. J. Cell Biol. 57:9-15). The results of this study indicated that [3H]gal incorporation into term placental villi was predominantly localized to cytotrophoblast. Utilization of [3H]gal by term syncytial trophoblast was extremely low and yielded too few grains for a quantitative grain analysis. This result is in striking contrast to that found in the preceding study of [3H]leucine incorporation (Nelson, D. M., A. C. Enders, and B. F. King. 1978). Within cytotrophoblast, the rough endoplasmic reticulum incorporated the most [3H]gal into glycoprotein. The Golgi apparatus was another site of [3H]gal incorporation. The vast majority of the [3H]gal incorporated into cytotrophoblast during the pulse incubation remained intracellular through the duration of the experiment. There was little autoradiographic evidence for secretion of tritiated macromolecules. Cytotrophoblast incubated for the longest time period studied (4 h+) showed a substantial concentration of tritiated macromolecules in the Golgi complex and in the ground plasm but not in the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

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