Knowledge of the dynamics of collagen turnover requires information regarding rates of synthesis of this group of connective-tissue proteins. The relationship of various amino acid pools to the tRNA precursor pool used for protein synthesis is known to vary between different cell types and tissues, even for essential amino acids. We studied extracellular, intracellular and tRNA-proline pools in cultured human lung IMR-90 fibroblasts to determine the relationship between them as candidate proline precursor pools for total protein and collagen synthesis. Time-course experiments showed that the three proline pools attained distinctly different steady-state specific radioactivities (extracellular greater than intracellular greater than tRNA) at the extracellular proline concentration of 0.2 mM. The kinetics of radioisotope incorporation into cell protein and collagenase-digestible protein indicated that the intracellular free proline pool could not be used reliably as a precursor for calculating synthetic rates. However, tRNA-proline behaved isotopically as if it were the precursor and provided synthesis rates 2-3-fold higher than those calculated by using either free proline pool. The incorporation of labelled lysine and leucine was constant over a wide range of extracellular proline concentrations. Fractional rates of protein synthesis based on tRNA-amino acid were the same with [3H]phenylalanine as with [3H]proline. The specific radioactivity of cell-associated hydroxyproline reached a steady-state value 8-10h after radioisotope administration which matched the mean tRNA-proline specific radioactivity, suggesting that tRNA-proline is not isotopically compartmentalized. A model of cellular proline-pool relationship is presented and discussed.

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