The possibility that triacylglycerol (TAG) synthesis occurs on both aspects of the endoplasmic-reticular membrane during the process of incorporation of TAG into secreted very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) [Zammit (1996) Biochem. J. 314, 1-14] was investigated by measuring the latency of diacylglycerol acyltransferase (DGAT) in microsomal fractions obtained from rat liver homogenates. Permeabilization of microsomes with taurocholate resulted in the doubling of the activity, indicating that DGAT activities of approximately equal magnitude occur on either aspect of the microsomal membrane. The taurocholate concentrations required for exposure of the latent activity of DGAT were identical with those that resulted in the exposure of marker enzymes for the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum. Fractionation of the microsomes into smooth and rough populations indicated that the distribution of overt and latent DGAT activities was the same throughout. The possibility that taurocholate effects may result from non-specific activation of the overt enzyme was excluded by employing the channel-forming peptide alamethicin to effect permeabilization, and by varying the mode of delivery of diacylglycerol substrate to the microsomal membranes. Permeabilization using alamethicin gave a slightly higher latent/overt ratio for DGAT. The possible roles of overt and latent DGAT activities in the synthesis and secretion of TAG by the liver are discussed.

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