An immunocolloidal gold electron microscopy method is described allowing the ultrastructural localization and quantitation of the regulatory subunits RI and RII and the catalytic subunit C of cAMP-dependent protein kinase. Using a postembedding indirect immunogold labeling procedure that employs specific antisera, the catalytic and regulatory subunits were localized in electron-dense regions of the nucleus and in cytoplasmic areas with a minimum of nonspecific staining. Antigenic domains were localized in regions of the heterochromatin, nucleolus, interchromatin granules, and in the endoplasmic reticulum of different cell types, such as rat hepatocytes, ovarian granulosa cells, and spermatogonia, as well as cultured H4IIE hepatoma cells. Morphometric quantitation of the relative staining density of nuclear antigens indicated a marked modulation of the number of subunits per unit area under various physiologic conditions. For instance, following partial hepatectomy in rats, the staining density of the nuclear RI and C subunits was markedly increased 16 h after surgery. Glucagon treatment of rats increased the staining density of only the nuclear catalytic subunit. Dibutyryl cAMP treatment of H4IIE hepatoma cells led to a marked increase in the nuclear staining density of all three subunits of cAMP-dependent protein kinase. These studies demonstrate that specific antisera against cAMP-dependent protein kinase subunits may be used in combination with immunogold electron microscopy to identify the ultrastructural location of the subunits and to provide a semi-quantitative estimate of their relative cellular density.

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