1. The process by which the egg-yolk protein precursor vitellogenin is biosynthesized, assembled and secreted by Xenopus laevis (South African clawed toad) liver was studied. It was previously shown in other laboratories that vitellogenin contains the two egg-yolk proteins lipovitellin (mol.wt. 140 000) and phosvitin (mol.wt. 35 000). 2. Evidence is presented which shows that Xenopus liver microsomal fractions synthesize precursors of vitellogenin. These precursors were solubilized from the membranes with detergent and analysed by sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis. This analysis indicated that there is only one precursor polypeptide, and this has mol.wt. approx. 200 000 +/- 20 000. This demonstrates that the egg-yolk proteins are translated as part of this larger polypeptide. 3. Experiments also demonstrate the existence of a microsomal proteinase which is able to cleave the precursor into smaller fragments. The nature of these fragments provided some indirect evidence that phosvitin and lipovitellin light chains are situated together within the precursor molecule. 4. These precursor data fit in well with structural studies on serum vitellogenin, since it has been shown that the latter protein consists of two identical subunits each with a mobility on sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide gels identical with that shown by the microsomal precursor. This indicates that both the intracellular precursor and subunit of vitellogenin have similar (but not necessarily identical) molecular weights. 5. It was also shown that trypsin or chymotrypsin can cleave the serum vitellogenin into leucine- and serine-rich fragments which resemble lipovitellin and phosvitin respectively. Attention is, however, drawn to the fact that the serine-rich fragment is not identical with phosvitin, since it contains eight times more leucine than that expected for the authentic phosvitin molecule [Penning (1976) Ph.D. Thesis, University of Southampton].

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.