Rat liver mitochondrial fractions corresponding to four morphological structures (matrix, inner membrane, intermembrane space and outer membrane) contain proteinases that cleave casein components at different rates. Proteinases of the intermembrane space preferentially cleave kappa-casein, whereas the proteinases of the outer membrane, inner membrane and matrix fractions degrade alpha S1-casein more rapidly. Electrophoretic separation of the degradation products of alpha S1-casein and kappa-casein in polyacrylamide gels shows that different polypeptides are produced when the substrate is degraded by the matrix, by both membranes and by the intermembrane-space fraction. Some of the degradation products resulting from incubation of the caseins with the mitochondrial fractions are probably the result of digestion by contaminating lysosomal proteinase(s). The matrix has a high peptidase activity, since glucagon, a small peptide, is very rapidly degraded by this fraction. These observations strongly suggest that distinct proteinases, with different specificities, are associated respectively with the intermembrane space and with both membrane fractions.

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