Incorporation of [3H]threonine and [3H]glucose by the mucous and serous cells of the human bronchial submucosal gland has been studied over 8 h using, for the first time in vitro pulse labeling and electron microscope autoradiography. In assessing the autoradiographs, two methods were compared, the circle analysis and the recently described hypothetical grain analysis. Preliminary studies showed formaldehyde to be the most suitable fixative. Chemical analysis of tissue revealed that [3H]threonine was incorporated into the polypeptide moiety of the bronchial gland product and that metabolites of [3H]-glucose were incorporated into the carbohydrate. Tritiated threonine was first localized in the endoplasmic reticulum of both mucous and serous cells and later migrated to the Golgi apparatus, while metabolites of [3H]glucose localized first mainly in the Golgi apparatus. From here, both radioactive precursors were next identified in vacuoles and, finally, in secretory granules. The mucous cell incorporated strikingly more of both radioactive precursors than the serous cell. Thus, it seems that oligosaccharides of mucous and serous cell glycoproteins are synthesized mainly in the Golgi apparatus and added there to the polypeptide core which is synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum. The relationship of the mucous cell to the serous cell is discussed. It seems that under "normal" conditions each cell represents a different line but that injury may transform a serous cell into a mucous cell.

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