The molecular forms of two lysosomal enzymes, cathepsin C and cathepsin D, have been examined in lysosomes and coated vesicles (CVs) of rat liver. In addition, the relative proportion of these lysosomal enzymes residing in functionally distinct CV subpopulations was quantitated. CVs contained newly synthesized precursor forms of the enzymes in contrast to lysosomes where only the mature forms were detected. Exocytic and endocytic CV subpopulations were prepared by two completely different protocols. One procedure, a density shift method, uses cholinesterase to alter the density of CVs derived from exocytic or endocytic pathways. The other relies on electrophoretic heterogeneity to accomplish the CV subfractionation. Subpopulations of CVs prepared by either procedure showed similar results, when examined for their relative proportion of cathepsin C and cathepsin D precursors. Within the starting CV preparation, exocytic CVs contained approximately 80-90% of the total steady-state levels of these enzymes while the level in the endocytic population was approximately 10-13%. The implications of these findings are discussed with regard to lysosome trafficking.

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