A cell fractionation procedure is described which allowed, by use of MOPC 21 (P3K) mouse plasmocytoma cells in culture, the separation of the cytoplasmic free and membrane-bound ribosomes in fractions devoid of mutual cross-contamination, and in which the polyribosomal structure was entirely preserved. This was achieved by sedimentation on a discontinuous sucrose density gradient in which the two ribosome populations migrate in opposite directions. A variety of controls (electron microscopy, labeling of membrane lipids, further repurification of the isolated fractions) provided no evidence of cross-contamination of these populations. However, when an excess of free 60S or 40S subunits, labeled with a different isotope, was added to the cytoplasmic extract before fractionation, the possibility of a small amount of trapping and/or adsorption of free ribosomal particles by the membrane fraction was detected, especially in the case of the 60S subunits; this could be entirely prevented by the use of sucrose gradients containing 0.15 M KC1. EDTA treatment of the membrane fraction detached almost all the 40S subunits, and about 70% of the 60S subunits. 0.5 M KC1 detached only 10% of the ribosomal particles, which consist of the native 60S subunits and the monoribosomes, i.e. the bound particles inactive in protein synthesis. Analysis in CsC1 buoyant density gradients of the free and membrane-bound polyribosomes and of their derived 60S and 40S ribosomal subunits showed that the free and membrane-bound ribosomal particles have similar densities.

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