Electron microscope cytochemical localization of glucose-6-phosphatase in the developing hepatocytes of fetal and newborn rats indicates that the enzyme appears simultaneously in all the rough endoplasmic reticulum of a cell, although asynchronously within the hepatocyte population as a whole. To confirm that the pattern of cytochemical deposits reflects the actual distribution of enzyme sites, a method to subfractionate rough endoplasmic reticulum was developed. The procedure is based on the retention of the cytochemical reaction product (precipitated lead phosphate) within freshly prepared rough microsomes reacted in vitro with glucose-6-phosphate and lead ions. Lead phosphate increases the density of the microsomes which have glucose-6-phosphatase activity and thereby makes possible their separation from microsomes lacking the enzyme; separation is obtained by isopycnic centrifugation on a two-step density gradient. The procedure was applied to rough microsomes isolated from rats at several stages during hepatocyte differentiation and the results obtained agree with those given by cytochemical studies in situ. Before birth, when only some of the cells react positively for glucose-6-phosphatase, only a commensurate proportion of the rough microsome fraction can be rendered dense by the enzyme reaction. At the time of birth and in the adult, when all cells react positively, practically all microsomes acquire deposit and become dense after reaction. Thus, the results of the microsome subfractionation confirm the cytochemical findings; the enzyme is evenly distributed throughout all the endoplasmic reticulum of a cell and there is no regional differentiation within the rough endoplasmic reticulum with respect to glucose-6-phosphatase. These findings suggest that new components are inserted molecule-by-molecule into a pre-existing structural framework. The membranes are thus mosaics of old and new molecules and do not contain large regions of entirely "new" membrane in which all of the components are newly synthesized or newly assembled.

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