Carbohydrate-containing structures in rat liver rough microsomes (RM) were localized and characterized using iodinated lectins of defined specificity. Binding of [125I]Con A increased six- to sevenfold in the presence of low DOC (0.04--0.05%) which opens the vesicles and allows the penetration of the lectins. On the other hand, binding of [125I]WGA and [125I]RCA increased only slightly when the microsomal vesicles were opened by DOC. Sites available in the intact microsomal fraction had an affinity for [125I]Con A 14 times higher than sites for lectin binding which were exposed by the detergent treatment. Lectin-binding sites in RM were also localized electron microscopically with lectins covalently bound to biotin, which, in turn, were visualized after their reaction with ferritin-avidin (F-Av) markers. Using this method, it was demonstrated that in untreated RM samples, binding sites for lectins are not present on the cytoplasmic face of the microsomal vesicles, even after removal of ribosomes by treatment with high salt buffer and puromycin, but are located on smooth membranes which contaminate the rough microsomal fraction. Combining this technique with procedures which render the interior of the microsomal vesicles accessible to lectins and remove luminal proteins, it was found that RM membranes contain binding sites for Con A and for Lens culinaris agglutinin (LCA) located exclusively on the cisternal face of the membrane. No sites for WGA, RCA, soybean (SBA) and Lotus tetragonobulus (LTA) agglutinins were detected on either the cytoplasmic or the luminal faces of the rough microsomes. These observations demonstrate that: (a) sugar moieties of microsomal glycoproteins are exposed only on the luminal surface of the membranes and (b) microsomal membrane glycoproteins have incomplete carbohydrate chains without the characteristic terminal trisaccharides N-acetylglucosamine comes from galactose comes from sialic acid or fucose present in most glycoproteins secreted by the liver. The orientation and composition of the carbohydrate chains in microsomal glycoproteins indicate that the passage of these glycoproteins through the Golgi apparatus, followed by their return to the endoplasmic reticulum, is not required for their biogenesis and insertion into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane.

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