Of the subcellular fractions of rat liver the endoplasmic reticulum was the most active in GDP-mannose: retinyl phosphate mannosyl-transfer activity. The synthesis of retinyl phosphate mannose reached a maximum at 20-30 min of incubation and declined at later times. Retinyl phosphate mannose and dolichyl phosphate mannose from endogenous retinyl phosphate and dolichyl phosphate could also be assayed in the endoplasmic reticulum. About 1.8 ng (5 pmol) of endogenous retinyl phosphate was mannosylated per mg of endoplasmic reticulum protein (15 min at 37 degrees C, in the presence of 5 mM-MnCl2), and about 0.15 ng (0.41 pmol) of endogenous retinyl phosphate was mannosylated with Golgi-apparatus membranes. About 20 ng (13.4 pmol) of endogenous dolichyl phosphate was mannosylated in endoplasmic reticulum and 4.5 ng (3 pmol) in Golgi apparatus under these conditions. Endoplasmic reticulum, but not Golgi-apparatus membranes, catalysed significant transfer of [14C]mannose to endogenous acceptor proteins in the presence of exogenous retinyl phosphate. Mannosylation of endogenous acceptors in the presence of exogenous dolichyl phosphate required the presence of Triton X-100 and could not be detected when dolichyl phosphate was solubilized in liposomes. Dolichyl phosphate mainly stimulated the incorporation of mannose into the lipid-oligosaccharide-containing fraction, whereas retinyl phosphate transferred mannose directly to protein.

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