We have investigated the intracellular distribution of apolipoprotein B (apo B) in rabbit liver by immunoblotting, radioimmunoassay (r.i.a.) and enzyme-linked immunoassay (e.l.i.s.a.). Apo B100 was detected in total microsomes, rough microsomes, smooth microsomes, trans-enriched Golgi and cis-enriched Golgi and membrane and cisternal-content subfractions prepared from these fractions. There was also evidence of degradation of apo B100 in the Golgi membrane fractions. The amount of apo B in the subcellular fractions detected by competitive r.i.a. or e.l.i.s.a. ranged from 1.5 micrograms/mg of protein in the rough endoplasmic reticulum to 13 micrograms/mg of protein in the trans-Golgi fraction. Using internal standards (NADPH-cytochrome c reductase for the endoplasmic reticulum and galactosyltransferase for the Golgi membranes) it was calculated that all the apo B of liver is recovered within the secretory compartment, with 63% of the total apo B in the endoplasmic reticulum and the remainder in the Golgi. When the subcellular fractions were separated into membranes and cisternal contents, 60%, 50%, 60% and 30% of the total apo B was recovered in the membrane of the rough microsomes, smooth microsomes, cis-Golgi and trans-Golgi respectively. Using competitive e.l.i.s.a. we found that the membrane-bound form of the apo B was exposed at the cytosolic surface of the intact subcellular fractions. These observations are consistent with a model for assembly of very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) in which newly synthesized apo B is incorporated into a membrane-bound pool and a lumenal pool. The membrane-bound pool not used for VLDL assembly may be degraded, possibly in the Golgi region.

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