Phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) produced by Bacillus thuringiensis has been used as a probe for the distribution of phosphatidylinositol in hepatocyte membranes. Approx. 50% of this phospholipid was hydrolysed in microsomal vesicles (endoplasmic reticulum) with no significant hydrolysis of the remaining membrane phospholipids. Latency of mannose-6-phosphatase was retained during treatment indicating that the vesicles remained impermeable. Stripping of the ribosomes did not increase hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol; however, when the vesicles were opened using dilute sodium carbonate, hydrolysis increased to greater than 90%. Hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol of Golgi membranes was 35% and of plasma membranes was 50%. After treatment with PI-PLC, radiolabelled secretory proteins were retained in Golgi membranes and trapped lactate dehydrogenase was retained in plasma-membrane preparations indicating that the vesicles remained closed. Hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol increased to greater than 90% when the membranes were opened by treatment with dilute sodium carbonate. These observations indicate that PI-PLC of Bacillus thuringiensis is a suitable probe for the distribution of phosphatidylinositol in membranes, and that in liver membranes this phospholipid occurs on each side of the bilayer, a topography consistent with its diverse roles.

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