Rat liver particulate neutral ribonuclease (EC 3.1.4.22) was extensively purified (up to 40000-fold). It is shown to be an endonuclease, specific for pyrimidine bases, hydrolysing 5'-phosphate ester bonds. The enzyme specificity, Km, pH optimum, stability in acid medium and thermal stability at high temperature are the same as those of rat pancreatic and serum ribonucleases. Like pancreatic and serum neutral ribonucleases, the hepatic enzyme is sensitive to the liver natural inhibitor. This inhibitor was purified 8000-fold; its association with ribonuclease follows zero-order kinetics. These identical properties for ribonuclease of rat liver, pancreas and serum support the hypothesis [Bartholeyns, Peeters-Joris & Baudhuin (1975) Eur. J. Biochem. 60, 385-393] of an extrahepatic origin for the liver enzyme, the plasma ribonuclease of pancreatic origin being taken up by endocytosis in the liver. Neutral ribonuclease activity was detected in all rat organs investigated; its distribution among tissues is different from the distribution of the natural ribonuclear inhibitor.

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