The distribution, carbohydrate composition, and metabolism of glycoproteins have been studied in mitochondria, microsomes, axons, and whole rat brain, as well as in various synaptosomal subfractions, including the soluble protein, mitochondria, and synaptic membranes. Approximately 90% of the brain glycoproteins occur in the particulate fraction, and they are present in particularly high amounts in synaptic and microsomal membranes, where the concentration of glycoprotein carbohydrate is 2-3% of the lipid-free dry weight. Treatment of purified synaptic membranes with 0.2% Triton X-100 extracted 70% of the glycoprotein carbohydrate but only 35% of the lipid-free protein residue, and the resulting synaptic membrane subfractions differed significantly in carbohydrate composition. The glycoproteins which are not extracted by Triton X-100 also have a more rapid turnover, as indicated by the 80-155% higher specific activity of hexosamine and sialic acid 1 day after labeling with [3H]glucosamine in vivo. The specific activity of sialic acid in the synaptosomal soluble glycoproteins 2 hr after labeling was greater than 100 times that of the synaptosomal particulate fraction, whereas the difference in hexosamine specific activity in these two fractions was only twofold, and by 22 hr there was little or no difference in the specific activities of sialic acid and hexosamine in synaptosomal soluble as compared to membrane glycoproteins. These data indicate that sialic acid may be added locally to synaptosomal soluble glycoproteins before there is significant labeling of nerve ending glycoproteins by axoplasmic transport. Fifty to sixty percent of the hyaluronic acid and heparan sulfate of brain is located in the various membranes comprising the microsomal fraction, whereas half of the chondroitin sulfate is soluble and only one-third is in microsomal membranes. When microsomes are subfractionated on a discontinuous density gradient over half of the hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate are found in membranes with a density less than that of 0.5 M sucrose (representing a six- to sevenfold enrichment over their concentrations in the membranes applied to the gradient), whereas half of the heparan sulfate is present in membranes with a density greater than that of 0.8 M.
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