A quantitative ultrastructural radioautographic study of in vitro protein synthesis has been carried out in rat synaptosomal fractions incubated with tritiated leucine or a tritiated amino acid mixture. Analysis of grain density distribution demonstrated that presynaptic endings are labeled. 30–50% of the developed grains, representing tritiated amino acids incorporated into proteins, were related to presynaptic endings which accounted for 75–77% of the total processes. 34–45% of the grains were related to processes containing ribosomes which accounted for only 4–7% of the total processes. The relative specific activity of these ribosome-containing processes, some of which could be identified as postsynaptic elements, was up to ten times higher than that of the presynaptic ending. These findings indicate that protein synthesis takes place in vitro in presynaptic terminals although to a significantly lesser degree than that occurring in ribosome-containing processes, which, with other nonpresynaptic processes, are at the present time unavoidable contaminants of synaptosomal fractions. Presynaptic endings that in radioautographs contained no mitochondria were labeled. Also, presynaptic endings were labeled after incubation in the presence of chloramphenical which inhibited 20% of the protein synthesis of the synaptosomal fraction. It is concluded that besides mitochondrial protein synthesis, another protein synthesizing system operates in presynaptic endings in vitro.

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