A purified fraction of unstacked thylakoid membranes (TMF1u) has been obtained from homogenates of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (wild type 137+) by using repeated centrifugates in sucrose density gradients and low salt treatment. The contaminants of the fraction are reduced to a few mitochondria (approximately 3% of the total mitochondrial population), a few osmiophilic granules, and fragments of chloroplast envelopes. By SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis the polypeptide components of TMF1u were resolved into at least 30 bands. To determine the relative rates of assembly of newly synthesized polypeptides into thylakoid membranes, synchronized algal cells were doubly labeled in vivo with L-[14C] and L-[3H]arginine--used for long- and short-term labeling, respectively. TMF1u's were isolated from the labeled cells at selected time points during the cycle and the distribution of radioactivity was assayed in the gel electrophoretograms of their solubilized polypeptides. Incorporation of newly synthesized polypeptides into the bands of the gels was found to occur continuously but differentially throughout the cycle. Maximal rates of incorporation for the majority of the polypeptides were detected shortly after cell division (6D-7D; equivalent to early G1 phase). The rates of radioactive labeling decreased gradually to a low level at the end of the dark period and then rose slightly at the beginning of the next light period. The findings suggest that, in addition to the light/dark control postulated in the past, assembly of newly synthesized proteins into thylakoid membranes is activated by signals at work in the early G1 phase.

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