In the presence of Mn(II) ions, the u.v. absorption spectrum of retinyl phosphate (Ret-P) solubilized in Triton X-100 micelles, phosphatidylcholine liposomes or rat liver microsomes exhibited a shift from the maximum of 330 nm to 287 nm. The effect of Mn(II) was reversed by adding EDTA or phosphate buffer. The same spectral change was found in the presence of poly-L-lysine in place of Mn(II) ions. The e.s.r. spectrum of Mn(II) in the presence or in the absence of Ret-P clearly showed that approx. 75% of the initial concentration of Mn(II) ions is bound to Ret-P when the molar ratio of Ret-P to Mn(II) ions is 4:1; no such binding occurred in the presence of retinol or retinoic acid. The appearance of two isosbestic points at 303 and 368 nm, in the presence of Mn(II) ions, suggests the existence of an equilibrium between an Mn(II)-bound monomer and an Mn(II)-bound dimer of Ret-P in Triton X-100 micelles. The same effect on the u.v.-absorption spectrum of Ret-P was also induced by Co(II), Cr(II), Zn(II) and Fe(II), but not by Mg2+ or Cu(II). The formation of the ‘metachromatic complex’ between Ret-P and Mn(II) or Co(II) inhibited the synthesis of retinyl phosphate mannose (Ret-P-Man) from exogenous and endogenous Ret-P and guanosine diphosphate [14C]mannose when bovine serum albumin was added after the metal ion. However, the order of addition did not influence Ret-P-Man synthesis in incubations containing MgCl2, which does not form the metachromatic complex with Ret-P. These results suggest that the bioavailability of proteins, polyamines and metal ions may control the extent to which Ret-P can be mannosylated in the intact membrane.

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