The subcellular distribution of specific binding sites for [3H]leukotriene C4 ([3H]LTC4) was analyzed after sedimentation of organelles from disrupted bovine aortic endothelial cells on sucrose density gradients and was shown to be in membrane fractions I (20% sucrose) and IV (35% sucrose). Saturation binding studies of [3H]LTC4 on endothelial cell monolayers at 4 degrees C demonstrated high-affinity binding sites with a dissociation constant (Kd) of 6.8 +/- 2.2 nM (mean +/- SD) and a density of 0.12 +/- 0.02 pmol/10(6) cells. At 4 degrees C, the specific binding of [3H]LTC4 by each of the subcellular fractions reached equilibrium at 30 min and remained stable for an additional 60 min. After 30 min of incubation with [3H]LTC4, the addition of excess unlabeled LTC4 to each subcellular fraction reversed more than 70% of [3H]LTC4 binding in 10 min. The [3H]LTC4 binding activities of subcellular fractions were enhanced approximately twofold to fourfold in the presence of Ca2+, Mg2+, and Mn2+, whereas Na+, K+, and Li+ were without effect. As measured by saturation experiments, the Kd and density of LTC4 binding sites in fraction I were 4.8 +/- 1.6 nM and 16.5 +/- 1.9 pmol/mg of protein, respectively, and in fraction IV were 4.7 +/- 1.5 nM and 81.4 +/- 19 pmol/mg of protein, respectively. Inhibition of [3H]LTC4 binding in membrane-enriched subcellular fractions I and IV by LTC4 occurred with molar inhibition constant (Ki) values of 4.5 +/- 0.1 nM and 4.7 +/- 1.2 nM, respectively, whereas Ki values for LTD4 were 570 +/- 330 nM and 62.5 +/- 32.8 nM, respectively, and for LTE4 were greater than 1000 nM for each fraction; LTB4 and reduced glutathione were even less active. FPL55712, a putative antagonist of the sulfidopeptide LT components of slow reacting substance of anaphylaxis, had Ki values of 1520 +/- 800 nM and 1180 +/- 720 nM for [3H]LTC4 binding sites on membrane-enriched subcellular fractions I and IV, respectively. Thus as defined by Kd, Ki, and specificity, the LTC4 binding units that are distributed to the plasma membrane and the binding units in the subcellular fraction of greater density were similar to each other. Pretreatment of the isolated subcellular membrane fractions with trypsin abolished [3H]LTC4 binding by fraction I, enriched for the plasma membrane marker 5' nucleotidase, and that by fraction IV, enriched for the mitochondrial membrane marker succinate-cytochrome C reductase.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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