When intact human erythrocytes are incubated at metabolic steady state in a chloride-free medium containing [32P]Pi, there is rapid labelling of the gamma-phosphate of ATP, followed by a slower labelling of the monoester phosphate groups of phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate (PtdIns4P) and phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate [PtdIns(4,5)P2] [King, Stephens, Hawkins, Guy & Michell (1987) Biochem. J. 244, 209-217]. We have analysed the early kinetics of the labelling of these phosphate groups, in order to determine: (a) the steady-state rates of the interconversions of phosphatidylinositol, PtdIns4P and PtdIns(4,5)P2; and (b) the fractions of the total cellular complement of PtdIns4P and PtdIns(4,5)P2 that participate in this steady-state turnover. The experimental data most closely fit a pattern of PtdIns4P and PtdIns(4,5)P2 turnover in which one-quarter of the total cellular complement of each lipid is in the metabolic pool that participates in rapid metabolic turnover, with rate constants of 0.028 min-1 for the interconversion of PtdIns and PtdIns4P, and of 0.010 min-1 for the PtdIns4P/PtdIns(4,5)P2 cycle. These rate constants represent metabolic fluxes of approx. 2.1 nmol of lipid/h per ml of packed erythrocytes between PtdIns and PtdIns4P and of approx. 5.7 nmol/h per ml of cells between PtdIns4P and PtdIns(4,5)P2.

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