The biosynthesis of membrane proteins and glycoproteins has been studied in rat intestinal crypt and villus cells by measuring the incorporation of L-[5,6-3H] fucose, D-[2-3H] mannose and L-[3,4,5-3H] leucine, given intraperitoneally, into Golgi, lateral-basal and luminal membranes. Incorporation of leucine and mannose was approximately equal in crypt and villus cells, whereas fucose incorporation was markedly higher (3-4 times) in the differentiated villus cells. As previously reported [Quaroni, Kirsch & Weiser (1979) Biochem J. 182. 203-212] most of the fucosylated glyco-proteins synthesized in the villus cells and initially present in the Golgi and lateral-basal membranes were found re-distributed, within 3-4h of label administration, in the luminal membrane. A similar process appeared to occur in the crypt cells, where, however, only few fucose-labelled glycoproteins were identified. In contrast, most of the leucine-labelled and many mannose-labelled membrane components found in the lateral-basal membrane of both crypt and villus cells did not seen to undergo a similar re-distribution process. The fucosylated glycoproteins of the intestinal epithelial cells represent, therefore, a special class of membrane components, most of which appear with differentiation, that are selectively localized in the luminal portion of the plasmalemma. In contrast with the marked differences in protein and glycoprotein patterns between the luminal membrane of villus and crypt cells, only minor differences were found between their lateral-basal membrane components: their protein patterns on sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide slab gels, and the patterns of fucose-, mannose- and leucine-labelled components (analysed 3-4h after label administration) were very similar. Although the minor differences detected may be of importance, it appears that most of the surface-membrane changes accompanying cell differentiation in the intestinal epithelial cells are localized in the luminal portion of their surface membrane.

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