A study was done to determine whether the Ca2+-activated muscle protease (CAF) that removes Z disks from myofibrils in the presence of Ca2+ is located in a sedimentable subcellular organelle. Porcine skeletal muscle cells were diced finely with a scalpel and were suspended in 0.25 M sucrose, 4 mM EDTA with a VIRTIS homogenizer. Filtration of the suspended muscle through four layers of cheesecloth removed most of the myofibrils and stromal protein. Nuclear (1,000 gavg for 15 min), mitochondrial-microsomal (50,000 gavg for 60 min), and supernatant fractions were assayed for succinic dehydrogenase, acid ribonuclease, cathepsin D, and CAF activities. Approximately 96% of total succinic dehydrogenase activity, 81% of cathepsin D activity, and 45% of acid ribonuclease activity, but only 14% of total CAF activity, were found in the nuclear and mitochondrial-microsomal fractions. Cathepsin D activity in the nuclear and mitochondrial-microsomal fractions was decreased if assays were done without prior treatment to rupture membranous structures; hence, our cell rupture and homogenization procedures preserved some intact lysosomal organelles. The results indicate that the small amount of CAF activity in the nuclear and mitochondrial-microsomal fractions was due to contamination by supernate and that CAF is not located in a membrane-bounded subcellular particle. Because CAF is active at the intracellular pH and temperature of living skeletal muscle cells and is in direct contact with the cytoplasm of muscle cells, its activity must be regulated by intracellular cellular Ca2+ concentration to prevent continuous and indiscriminate degradation of myofibrils.

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