The rate of synthesis and the turnover of cytoplasmic membrane proteins were determined in the acinar cells of guinea pig pancreas with the aim of investigating the mechanisms by which the intracellular transport of secretion products occurs. These cells are highly specialized toward protein secretion.

By means of in vitro pulse-chase experiments and in vivo double-labeling experiments, using radioactive L-leucine as the tracer, it was found that the turnover of secretory proteins is much faster than that of all membranes involved in their transport (rough and smooth microsome and zymogen granule membranes). Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide disk gel electrophoresis of membrane proteins revealed that in each of these membranes there is a marked heterogeneity of turnover; generally the high molecular weight polypeptides have a shorter half-life than the low molecular weight polypeptides.

These data indicate that the membranes participating in the intracellular transport of secretory proteins are not synthesized concomitantly with the latter. Rather, they are probably reutilized in several successive secretory cycles.

The possible relevance of these findings to other secretory systems is discussed.