The immunocytochemical localization of cellular retinol-binding protein (CRBP), of plasma retinol-binding protein (RBP), and of plasma transthyretin (TTR) was studied in rat liver and kidney. The studies employed normal rats, retinol-deficient rats, and rats fed excess retinol. Antisera were prepared in rabbits against purified rat CRBP, RBP, and TTR. The primary antibodies and goat anti-rabbit IgG were purified by immunosorbent affinity chromatography, using the respective pure antigen coupled to Sepharose as the immunosorbent. This procedure effectively removed cross-reactive and heterophile antibodies, which permitted the specific staining and localization of each antigen by the unlabeled peroxidase-antiperoxidase method. CRBP was found to be localized in two cell types in the liver, the parenchymal cells and the fat-storing cells. Diffuse cytoplasmic staining for CRBP was seen in all the parenchymal cells. Much more intense staining for CRBP was seen in the fat-storing cells. The prominence of the CRBP-positive fat-storing cells changed markedly with vitamin A status. Thus, these cells were most prominent, and appeared most numerous, in liver from rats fed excess retinol. Both RBP and TTR were localized within liver parenchymal cells. The intensity of RBP staining increased markedly in retinol-deficient rat liver, consistent with previous biochemical observations. With the methods employed, specific staining for RBP or TTR was not seen in cells other than the parenchymal cells. In the kidney, all three proteins (CRBP, RBP, and TTR) were localized in the proximal convoluted tubules of the renal cortex. Staining for RBP was much more intense in normal kidney than in kidney from retinol-deficient rats. These findings reflect the fact that RBP in the tubules represents filtered and reabsorbed RBP. The pattern of specific staining for CRBP among the various tubules was very similar to that seen for RBP on adjacent, serial sections of kidney. The function of CRBP in the kidney is not known.

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