The high fluorescence of adenine-containing compounds after reaction with chloroacetaldehyde was used to measure the adenine released from rat liver and Artemia salina ribosomes by the action of ricin A chain and gelonin, two ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs) that share the same mechanism of action, consisting in the hydrolysis of the N-glycosidic bond of A-4324 of 28 S rRNA. Two methods were employed: (i) h.p.l.c. of the chloroacetaldehyde-reactive material released by RIPs; h.p.l.c. associated with a fluorescence detector allows the identification of adenine and its dosage at quantities as low as 2 ng; (ii) the direct fluorimetric measurement of the material that had reacted with chloroacetaldehyde. The amount of adenine released increases when ribosomes are pretreated in conditions that lead to their dissociation into subunits. Adenine protects ribosomes from the inhibition by ricin A-chain. When ribosomes were incubated with ricin A-chain in the presence of [14C]adenine no incorporation of radioisotope in ribosomes was observed, indicating that neither exchange nor reversal reactions occurred. A binding of [14C]adenine to ricin A chain was not detected by equilibrium dialysis.

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