The properties of a discrete membranous fraction isolated on sucrose gradients from castor bean endosperm have been examined. This fraction was previously shown to be the exclusive site of phosphorylcholine-glyceride transferase. The distribution of NADPH-cytochrome c reductase and antimycin insensitive NADH-cytochrome c reductase across the gradient followed closely that of the phosphorylcholine-glyceride transferase. This fraction also had NADH diaphorase activity and contained cytochromes b5 and P 450. On sucrose gradients containing 1 mM EDTA this fraction had a mean isopycnic density of 1.12 g/cm3 and sedimented separately from the ribosomes; electron micrographs showed that it was comprised of smooth membranes. When magnesium was included in the gradients to prevent the dissociation of membrane-bound ribosomes, the isopycnic density of the membrane fraction with its associated enzymes was increased to 1.16 g/cm3 and under these conditions the electron micrographs showed that the membranes had the typical appearance of rough endoplasmic reticulum. Together these data show that the endoplasmic reticulum is the exclusive site of lecithin formation in the castor bean endosperm and establish a central role for this cytoplasmic component in the biogenesis of cell membranes.

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