Biochemical characterization and biosynthesis of the uterine milk proteins of the pregnant sheep uterus.
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The uterine milk proteins (UTM-proteins), a pair of basic glycoproteins with similar isoelectric points and molecular weights (57,000 and 55,000), are secreted by the endometrium of the pregnant ewe. Peptide mapping of the two species of UTM-proteins demonstrated them to be structurally related. Furthermore, pulse-chase and continuous-labeling experiments indicated that both are produced from a common precursor of lower molecular weight. Purified UTM-proteins were found to be rich in basic amino acids, low in tyrosine, and apparently lacking in tryptophan. The proteins were about 5.6-5.7% carbohydrate by weight and bound the lectin, concanavalin A. UTM-proteins synthesized in vitro incorporated D-[3H]glucosamine. Analysis of [3H]glucosamine-labeled glycopeptides of Pronase-digested UTM-proteins by gel filtration indicated that most radioactivity is associated with one size class of oligosaccharide. UTM-proteins secreted by the endometrium in the presence of tunicamycin, an N-glycosylation inhibitor, were of lower molecular weight than those from control endometria, indicating that sugar chains are attached to the protein core via N-linkages to asparagine. UTM-proteins synthesized in culture incorporated [32P]orthophosphate, and tunicamycin inhibited this incorporation. Analysis of hydrolyzed UTM-proteins by paper chromatography indicated that much of the 32P was associated with mannose 6-phosphate. Because this moiety is the so-called lysosomal recognition marker and is present on uteroferrin, the acid phosphatase of porcine uterine secretions, we tested UTM-proteins for several enzymatic activities characteristic of lysosomes, but none was found. In conclusion, the UTM-proteins are related glycoproteins that, like porcine uteroferrin, contain mannose 6-phosphate, a result which suggests that secretion of glycoproteins with phosphorylated oligosaccharide chains may be a common feature of the progestational uterus.