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Yeast secretory mutants sec53 and sec59 define a posttranslational stage in the penetration of glycoprotein precursors into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In the previous report we showed that at the restrictive temperature (37 degrees C) these mutants accumulate enzymatically inactive and incompletely glycosylated forms of the secretory enzyme invertase and the vacuolar enzyme carboxypeptidase Y. Cell fractionation experiments reveal that these precursor forms remain firmly bound to the ER membrane. However, upon return to the permissive temperature (24 degrees C), the invertase precursors are glycosylated, become partially active, and are secreted. Thermoreversible conversion does not require protein synthesis, but does require energy. In contrast to the effect of these mutations, inhibition of oligosaccharide synthesis with tunicamycin at 37 degrees C causes irreversible accumulation of unglycosylated invertase. The effect of the drug is exaggerated by high temperature since unglycosylated invertase synthesized in the presence of tunicamycin at 25 degrees C is secreted. A portion of the invertase polypeptide accumulated at 37 degrees C is preserved when membranes from sec53 and sec59 are treated with trypsin. In the presence of Triton X-100 or saponin, the invertase is degraded completely. The protected fragment appears to represent a portion of the invertase polypeptide that is embedded in or firmly associated with the ER membrane. This association may develop early during the synthesis of invertase, so that in the absence of translocation, some of the completed polypeptide chain remains exposed on the cytoplasmic surface of the ER.