To study the fate of external membrane proteins during phagocytosis, rabbit peritoneal neutrophils were labeled by enzymatic iodination. Iodine was incorporated into at least 13 proteins ranging in size from approximately 250,000 to 18,000 daltons as judged from autoradiography of gels after SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of labeled cells. The major contractile proteins of neutrophils, actin and myosin, were not labeled when intact cells were iodinated but were labeled when homogenates of these cells were iodinated. Nine of the iodinated proteins were released by mild protease treatment of intact cells. A plasma membrane-rich fraction was isolated by density centrifugation. This fraction was enriched at least 10-fold for lactoperoxidase-labeled acid-insoluble proteins. It was enriched to the same extent for the presence of iodinated wheat germ agglutinin that had been bound to intact cells at 4 degrees C before homogenization. Analysis of SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed that the proteins of this fraction were predominantly of high molecular weight. However, only 8 of the 13 proteins iodinated on intact cells were found in this fraction. The remaining five were enriched in a dense fraction containing nuclei, intact cells, and membranous vesicles, and may represent a specialized segment of the neutrophil cell surface.

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