Microsomal membranes are postulated to contain either a homogeneous arrangement of individual enzymes or groupings of functionally related enzymes. In the present study we attempt to distinguish between these hypotheses in subfractions of rough microsomes from rat liver. After sonication, the individual vesicles that make up the rough-membrane fraction average less than 1/100 of their previous mass. The vesicles in the sonicated suspension are fractionated roughly according to size on a continuous sucrose gradient. Enzyme activity or concentration in fractions of the gradient is expressed on a phospholipid basis. Fractions containing primarily small vesicles differ from those containing larger vesicles in a manner suggesting a certain degree of separation of NADH-linked from NADPH-linked enzymes. NADH-ferricyanide reductase, NADH-cytochrome c reductase and cytochrome b5 are most concentrated within the large vesicles in the lowest third of the gradient. In contrast, NADPH-cytochrome c reductase and cytochrome P-450 are found in highest concentration in the small vesicles that make up the upper third of the gradient. The results suggest a nonrandom distribution of these two enzyme groups in the membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum.

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