1. When pig ear skin slices were cultured for 18h in the presence of 1mug of tunicamycin/ml the incorporation of d-[3H]glucosamine into the epidermis, solubilized with 8m-urea/5% (w/v) sodium dodecyl sulphate, was inhibited by 45–55%. This degree of inhibition was not increased by using up to 5mug of tunicamycin/ml or by treating the skin slices with tunicamycin for up to 8 days. The incorporation of (U-14C)-labelled l-amino acids under these conditions was not affected by tunicamycin. Polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis indicated that the labelling of the major glycosaminoglycan peak with d-[3H]glucosamine was unaffected, whereas that of the faster migrating glycoprotein components was considerably decreased in the presence of tunicamycin. 2. Subcellular fractionation indicated that tunicamycin specifically inhibited the incorporation of d-[3H]glucosamine but not of (U-14C)-labelled l-amino acids into particulate (mainly plasma-membrane) glycoproteins by about 70%. The labelling of soluble glycoproteins was hardly affected. Polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis of the plasma-membrane fraction showed decreased d-[3H]glucosamine incorporation into all glycoprotein components, indicating that the plasma-membrane glycoproteins contained mainly N-asparagine-linked oligosaccharides. 3. Cellulose acetate electrophoresis of both cellular and extracellular glycosaminoglycans showed that tunicamycin had no significant effect on the synthesis of the major component, hyaluronic acid. However, the incorporation of both d-[3H]glucosamine and 35SO42− into sulphated glycosaminoglycans was inhibited by about 50%. This inhibition was partially overcome, at least in the cellular fraction, by 2mm-p-nitrophenyl β-d-xyloside indicating that tunicamycin-treated epidermis retained the ability to synthesize sulphated glycosaminoglycan chains. Tunicamycin may affect the synthesis and/or degradation of proteoglycan core proteins or the xylosyltransferase. 4. Electron-microscopic examination of epidermis treated with tunicamycin for up to 4 days revealed no significant changes in cell-surface morphology or in epidermal-cell adhesion. Either N-asparagine-linked carbohydrates play little role in epidermal-cell adhesion or more probably there is little turnover of these components in epidermal adhesive structures such as desmosomes and hemidesmosomes during organ culture.

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