The synthesis and assembly of vimentin was studied in erythroid cells from 10-d-old chicken embryos. After various periods of [35S]methionine incorporation, cells were lysed in a Triton X-100-containing buffer and separated into a soluble and an insoluble (cytoskeletal) fraction. Analysis of these two fractions by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis shows that vimentin is almost exclusively present in the cytoskeletal fraction and that newly synthesized vimentin is rapidly incorporated into this fraction. However, after a short pulse-labeling period, a prominent labeled protein at the position of vimentin is present in the soluble fraction. By immunoautoradiography and immunoprecipitations with vimentin antibodies, this protein was identified as vimentin. The vimentin in the soluble fraction is not sedimented by high speed centrifugation, suggesting that it does not consist of short filaments. After different pulse-labeling periods, assembly of newly synthesized vimentin in the cytoskeletal fraction increases linearly, while the radioactivity in the soluble vimentin remains constant. During a 2-h pulse-chase period, the vimentin in the soluble fraction is chased into the cytoskeletal fraction, with a half-life of 7 min. These results suggest that in chicken embryo erythroid cells newly synthesized vimentin is rapidly assembled into filaments from a soluble precursor.

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