Signal recognition particle (SRP) is a ribonucleoprotein consisting of six distinct polypeptides and one molecule of small cytoplasmic 7SL-RNA. The particle was previously shown to function in protein translocation across and protein integration into the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. Polypeptide specific antibodies were raised in rabbits against the 72,000-, 68,000-, and 54,000-mol-wt polypeptide of SRP. All three antibodies are shown to neutralize SRP activity in vitro. A solid phase radioimmune assay is described and used to follow SRP in various cell fractions. The partitioning of SRP is shown to be dependent on the ionic conditions of the fractionation. Under conditions approximating physiological ionic strength, SRP is found to be about equally distributed between a membrane associated (38%) and a free (15%) or ribosome associated (47%) state. Furthermore, it is shown that greater than 75% of the total cellular 7SL-RNA is associated with SRP polypeptide in these fractions. Thus it is likely that the major--if not the only--cellular function of 7SL-RNA is as a part of SRP.

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