Ribophorins are two transmembrane glycoproteins characteristic of the rough endoplasmic reticulum, which are thought to be involved in the binding of ribosomes. Their biosynthesis was studied in vivo using lines of cultured rat hepatocytes (clone 9) and pituitary cells (GH 3.1) and in cell-free synthesis experiments. In vitro translation of mRNA extracted from free and bound polysomes of clone 9 cells demonstrated that ribophorins are made exclusively on bound polysomes. The primary translation products of ribophorin messengers obtained from cultured hepatocytes or from regenerating livers co-migrated with the respective mature proteins, but had slightly higher apparent molecular weights (2,000) than the unglycosylated forms immunoprecipitated from cells treated with tunicamycin. This indicates that ribophorins, in contrast to all other endoplasmic reticulum membrane proteins previously studied, contain transient amino-terminal insertion signals which are removed co-translationally. Kinetic and pulse-chase experiments with [35S]methionine and [3H]mannose demonstrated that ribophorins are not subjected to electrophoretically detectable posttranslational modifications, such as proteolytic cleavage or trimming and terminal glycosylation of oligosaccharide side chain(s). Direct analysis of the oligosaccharides of ribophorin l showed that they do not contain the terminal sugars characteristic of complex oligosaccharides and that they range in composition from Man8GlcNAc to Man5GlcNAc. These findings, as well as the observation that the mature proteins are sensitive to endoglycosidase H and insensitive to endoglycosidase D, are consistent with the notion that the biosynthetic pathway of the ribophorins does not require a stage of passage through the Golgi apparatus.

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