A single intravenous injection of L-[3H]fucose, a specific glycoprotein precursor, was given to young 35–45 g rats which were sacrificed at times varying between 2 min and 30 h later. Radioautography of over 50 cell types, including renewing and nonrenewing cells, was carried out for light and electron microscope study.
At early time intervals (2–10 min after injection), light microscope radioautography showed a reaction over nearly all cells investigated in the form of a discrete clump of silver grains over the Golgi region. This reaction varied in intensity and duration from cell type to cell type. Electron microscope radioautographs of duodenal villus columnar cells and kidney proximal and distal tubule cells at early time intervals revealed that the silver grains were restricted to Golgi saccules. These observations are interpreted to mean that glycoproteins undergoing synthesis incorporate fucose in the saccules of the Golgi apparatus. Since fucose occurs as a terminal residue in the carbohydrate side chains of glycoproteins, the Golgi saccules would be the site of completion of synthesis of these side chains.
At later time intervals, light and electron microscope radioautography demonstrated a decrease in the reaction intensity of the Golgi region, while reactions appeared over other parts of the cells: lysosomes, secretory material, and plasma membrane. The intensity of the reactions observed over the plasma membrane varied considerably in various cell types; furthermore the reactions were restricted to the apical surface in some types, but extended to the whole surface in others.
Since the plasma membrane is covered by a "cell coat" composed of the carbohydrate-rich portions of membrane glycoproteins, it is concluded that newly formed glycoproteins, after acquiring fucose in the Golgi apparatus, migrate to the cell surface to contribute to the cell coat. This contribution implies turnover of cell coat glycoproteins, at least in nonrenewing cell types, such as those of kidney tubules. In the young cells of renewing populations, e.g. those of gastro-intestinal epithelia, the new glycoproteins seem to contribute to the growth as well as the turnover of the cell coat. The differences in reactivity among different cell types and cell surfaces imply considerable differences in the turnover rates of the cell coats.