Early events in the cellular synthesis and subsequent transfer into membrane-limited compartments of pre-proparathyroid hormone (pre-proPTH) and proparathyroid hormone (proPTH) were investigated by electrophoretic analyses of newly synthesized proteins in subcellular fractions of parthyroid gland slices pulse-labeled for 0.5-5 min with [(35)S] methionine. During these short times of incubation, both pre-proPTH and proPTH were confined to the microsomal fraction. Labeled pre-proPTH and proPTH were detected in a 30-s interval between 0.5 and 1.0 min of incubation. The radioactivity in proPTH became relatively constant between 3 and 5 min, whereas the radioactivity in ProPTH increased markedly over this period. When corrected for the known content of methionine in the prohormone and the prohormone, we found four times as much radiolabeled prohormone as prehormone between 0.5 and 1.0 min of synthesis. Sequestration of labeled prohomrone into endoplasmic reticulum compartments was shown by treatment of the microsomal fraction with chymotrypsin and trypsin, which resulted in the degradation of the prehormone but not of the prohormones. Approximately 50 percent of pre-prohormone and 25 percent of prohormone were released from the microsomes by their extraction with 1.0 M KCl, whereas 80-90 percent of both was released by treatment with Triton X-100. These results in intact cells support the signal hypothesis proposed by Blobel and his co-workers in studies utilizing cell-free systems, inasmuch as the results indicate transfer of prohormone into the cisternal space of the rough endoplasmic reticulum concomitant with the growth of the nascent polypeptide chain. Appearance of membrane-sequestered proPTH takes place without entry of pre-proPTH into the cisternal space, suggesting that proteolytic removal of the leader peptide occurs during transfer of the polypeptide through the lipid bilayer. Further evidence in support of this process is that pre-proPTH is only partly extracted from the microsomes by treatment with 1.0 M KCl, suggesting that a substantial fraction of the nascent pre-proPTH is integrally inserted into the membranes before it is cleaved to form proPTH.

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