The synthesis of the polypeptide backbone of mucus glycoproteins in rat stomach was studied. CsCl centrifugation of the homogenate of [3H]serine pulse-chase labelled stomach or mucosal scrapings showed that [3H]serine was mainly incorporated into molecules having a density identical to that of proteins and that only 8-12% was incorporated into macromolecules with the density of mucus glycoproteins. [3H]-Galactose, however, was almost exclusively incorporated into macromolecules with a density identical to that of mucus glycoproteins. Electrophoretic analysis of the CsCl fraction containing the mucus glycoprotein revealed that 78% of the [3H]serine-labelled macromolecules had an electrophoretic behaviour identical to that of mucus glycoproteins. Thus, only a small portion (about 6-10%) of incorporated [3H]serine was present in the backbone of the mucus glycoprotein. Translation in a wheat germ cell-free system of total RNA derived from both whole stomach and superficial mucosal scrapings, using either [35S]methionine or [35S]cysteine as radioactive amino acid, yielded a wide range of proteins. On sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis, one major translation product of whole stomach RNA had an apparent Mr (43000) identical to that of rat pepsinogen. As this polypeptide could not be found amongst the translation products of RNA from scrapings it probably was pepsinogen. The present data provide strong evidence that the backbone polypeptide of mucus glycoproteins only accounts for a small part of the proteins synthesized by mucus-producing cells.

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