Treatment of rat liver rough microsomes (3.5 mg of protein/ml) with sublytical concentrations (0.08%) of the neutral detergent Triton X-100 caused a lateral displacement of bound ribosomes and the formation of ribosomal aggregates on the microsomal surface. At slightly higher detergent concentrations (0.12-0.16%) membrane areas bearing ribosomal aggregates invaginated into the microsomal lumen and separated from the rest of the membrane. Two distinct classes of vesicles could be isolated by density gradient centrifugation from microsomes treated with 0.16% Triton X-100: one with ribosomes bound to the inner membrane surfaces ("inverted rough" vesicles) and another with no ribosomes attached to the membranes. Analysis of the fractions showed that approximately 30% of the phospholipids and 20-30% of the total membrane protein were released from the membranes by this treatment. Labeling with avidin-ferritin conjugates demonstrated that concanavalin A binding sites, which in native rough microsomes are found in the luminal face of the membranes, were present on the outer surface of the inverted rough vesicles. Freeze-fracture electron microscopy showed that both fracture faces had similar concentrations of intramembrane particles. SDS PAGE analysis of the two vesicle subfractions demonstrated that, of all the integral microsomal membrane proteins, only ribophorins I and II were found exclusively in the inverted rough vesicles bearing ribosomes. These observations are consistent with the proposal that ribophorins are associated with the ribosomal binding sites characteristic of rough microsomal membranes.

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