Nuclei, nuclear membranes and rough endoplasmic reticulum (rER) were isolated from onion root tips and stems. Structural preservation and purity of the fractions was determined by electron microscopic and biochemical methods. Gross compositional data (protein, phospholipid, nonpolar lipids, sterols, RNA, DNA), phospholipid and fatty acid patterns, enzyme activities (ATPases, ADPase, IDPase, glucose-6-phosphatase, 5'-nucleotidase, acid phosphatase, and NADH- and NADPH-cytochrome C reductases), and cytochrome contents were determined. A stable, high salt-resistant attachment of some DNA with the nuclear membrane was observed as well as the association of some RNA with high salt-treated nuclear and rER membranes. The phospholipid pattern was identical for both nuclear and rER membranes and showed a predominance of lecithin (about 60%) and phosphatidyl ethanolamine (20-24%). Special care was necessary to minimize lipid degradation by phospholipases during isolations. Nonpolar lipids, mostly sterols and triglycerides, accounted for 35-45% of the membrane lipids. Sterol contents were relatively high in both membrane fractions (molar ratios of sterols to phospholipids ranged from 0.12 to 0.43). Sitosterol accounted for about 80% of the total sterols. Palmitic, oleic, and linoleic acids were the most prevalent acids in membrane-bound lipids as well as in storage lipids and occurred in similar proportions in phospholipids, triglycerides and free fatty acids of the membrane. About 80% of the fatty acids in membrane phospholipids and triglycerides were unsaturated. A cytochrome of the b5 type was characterized in these membranes, but P-450-like cytochromes could not be detected. Both NADH and NADPH-cytochrome c reductases were found in nuclear and rER membranes and appeared to be enriched in rER membranes. Among the phosphatases, Mg2+-ATPase and, to lesser extents, ADPase, IDPase and acid phosphatase activities occurred in the fractions, but significant amounts of monovalent ion-stimulated ATPase, 5'-nucleotidase and glucose-6-phosphatase activities did not. The results obtained emphasize that the close biochemical similarities noted between rER and nuclear membranes of animal cells extend to these fractions from plant cells.

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