We investigated the subcellular sites of glycoprotein oligosaccharide maturation by using lectin conjugates to stain lightly-fixed, saponin-permeabilized myeloma cells. At the electron microscopic level, concanavalin A-peroxidase stains the cisternal space of the nuclear envelope, the rough endoplasmic reticulum, and cisternae along the proximal face of the Golgi stack. Conversely, wheat germ agglutinin-peroxidase stains cisternae along the distal face of the Golgi stack, associated vesicles, and the cell surface. These observations confirm the existence of two qualitatively distinct Golgi subcompartments, show that the lectin conjugates can be employed as relatively proximal or distal Golgi markers under conditions of excellent ultrastructural preservation, suggest that the asymmetric distribution of qualitatively distinct oligosaccharides is a property of underlying cellular components and not simply of the principal secretory product, and suggest that the oligosaccharide structure recognized by wheat germ agglutinin is attained during transport from the proximal toward the distal face of the Golgi stack.

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