The major excreted protein (MEP) of transformed mouse fibroblasts is a mannose 6-phosphate-containing glycoprotein whose synthesis and secretion are increased in malignantly transformed 3T3 cells and whose synthesis is increased by treatment of 3T3 cells with tumor promoters or growth factors. When pulse-labeled extracts from Kirsten virus-transformed NIH 3T3 (KNIH) cells were immunoprecipitated using an antibody against secreted MEP, one cellular protein was immunoprecipitated that had the same molecular weight and tryptic peptide map as the secreted protein. Pulse-chase labeling experiments showed that 50-60% of this 39,000-mol-wt form was secreted in transformed cells. Of the 40-50% remaining, approximately 5% was processed into two lower molecular weight forms (29,000 and 20,000) which are sequestered within the cell. Similar processing of these proteins was observed in the nontransformed parent NIH 3T3 (NIH) cells. However, in NIH cells, much less of the synthesized MEP was secreted. Measurements of steady-state levels of these three forms of cellular MEP by Western blot immunolocalization revealed approximately fourfold more MEP in KNIH cells than in NIH cells as well as differences in the relative distribution of MEP forms in transformed and nontransformed cells. Subcellular fractionation of KNIH cells on a Percoll gradient demonstrated a distribution of total MEP similar to that of several lysosomal enzymes. The light lysosomal/Golgi peak from these gradients contained both the precursor 39,000-mol-wt form of MEP and the 20,000-mol-wt form, whereas the heavy lysosomal peak was enriched in the 20,000-mol-wt form. The distribution of MEP forms was found to be similar in NIH cells except that the 29,000-mol-wt form was also seen to be enriched in the heavy lysosomal peak. This biochemical localization of MEP was confirmed by immunolocalization with light and electron microscopy. These data support the hypothesis that MEP is a lysosomal protein that is secreted by transformed cells.

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