Ribophorins I and II, two transmembrane glycoproteins characteristic of the rough endoplasmic reticulum (ER) are thought to be part of the translocation apparatus for proteins made on membrane bound polysomes. To study the stoichiometry between ribophorins and membrane-bound ribosomes we have determined the RNA and ribophorin content in rat liver microsomes or in microsomal subfractions of different density (i.e., ribosome content). The specificity of antibodies against the ribophorins was demonstrated by Western blot analysis of rat liver rough microsomes separated by 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis. The ribophorin content of microsomal subfractions was determined by indirect immunoprecipitation and for ribophorin I by a radioimmune assay. In the latter assay a molar ratio of ribophorin I/ribosomes approaching one was calculated for total microsomes as well as in the gradient subfractions. We therefore suggest that ribophorins mediate the binding of ribosomes to endoplasmic reticulum membranes or play a role in co-translational process which depend on this binding, such as the insertion of nascent polypeptides into the membrane or their transfer into the cisternal lumen.

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