Membrane preparations from growing regions of 8-day old Pisum sativum epicotyls contain multiple beta-1,4-glucan (cellulose) synthetase activities (UDP- or GDP-glucose: beta-1,4-glucan-glucosyl transferase), and the levels of some of these are influenced by treatments with the growth hormone, indoleacetic acid (IAA). When membranes from control epicotyl segments (zero time) are fractionated by isopycnic sedimentation in sucrose density gradients, all of the synthetase activities are associated mainly with Golgi membrane (density 1.55 g/cm3). After decapitation and treatment of epicotyls with IAA, synthetases also appear in a smooth vesicle fraction (density 1.11 g/cm3) which is rich in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) marker enzyme. Major fractions of these synthetases are not recovered in association with plasma membrane or washed cell walls. When [14-C]sucrose is supplied in vivo to segments +/- IAA, radioactive cellulose is deposited only in the wall. Cellulose or cellodextrin precursors do not accumulate in those membranes in which synthetase activities are recovered in vitro. In experiments where tissue slices containing intact cells are supplied with [14C]sugar nucleotide in vitro, alkali-insoluble beta-1,4-glucan is synthesized (presumably outside the protoplast) at rates which greatly exceeded (20-30 times) those obtained using isolated membrane preparations. Progressive disruption of cell structure results in increasing losses of this high activity. These results are consistent with the interpretation that Golgi and ER-associated synthetases are not themselves loci for cellulose synthesis in vivo, but represent enzymes in transit to sites of action at the wall:protoplast omterface. There they operate only if integrity of cellular organization is maintained.

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