The labelled glycopeptides obtained by Pronase digestion of rat intestinal epithelial cell membranes were examined by gel filtration after injection of D-[2-3H]mannose and L-[6-3H]fucose. Three labelled fraction were eluted in the following order from Bio-Gel P-6, Fraction I, which was excluded from the gel, was labelled mostly with [3H]fucose and slightly with [3H]mannose. Fraction II contained “complex” asparagine-linked oligosaccharides since it was labelled with [3H]mannose and [3H]fucose, was stable to mild alkali treatment, and resistant to endo-beta-N-acetyl-glucosaminidase H. Fraction III contained “high-mannose” asparagine-linked oligosaccharides, which were labelled with [3H]mannose, but not with [3H]fucose; these were sensitive to endo-beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase H, and were adsorbed on concanavalin A-Sepharose and subsequently eluted with methyl alpha-D-mannopyranoside. The time course of incorporation of [3H]mannose into these glycopeptides in microsomal fractions showed that high-mannose oligosaccharides were precursors of complex oligosaccharides. The rate of this processing was faster in rapidly dividing crypt cells than in differentiated villus cells. The ratio of radioactively labelled complex oligosaccharides to high-mannose oligosaccharides, 3h after [3H]mannose injection, was greater in crypt than in villus-cell lateral membranes. Luminal membranes of both crypt and villus cells were greatly enriched in labelled complex oligosaccharides compared with the labelling in lateral-basal membranes. These studies show that intestinal epithelial cells are polarized with respect to the structure of the asparagine-linked oligosaccharides on their membrane glycoproteins. During differentiation of these cells quantitative differences in labelled membrane glycopeptides, But no major qualitative change, were observed.

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