The subcellular localization of the post-translational processing steps which occur in the conversion of pro-adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)/endorphin into beta-endorphin-sized molecules in rat intermediate pituitary has been studied. Primary cell cultures were incubated in radioactively labeled amino acids, and a subcellular fraction containing secretory granules was separated from a subcellular fraction containing rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus by centrifugation of homogenates on gradients on Percoll (Pharmacia Fine Chemicals). The radiolabeled beta-endorphin-related material in the granule and rough endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi apparatus fractions was quantitated by immunoprecipitation and sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. A pulse-chase labeling experiment demonstrated that newly synthesized beta-endorphin-related material first appeared in the rough endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi apparatus fraction and after longer incubations (chase) appeared in the secretory granule fraction. After 2 h of chase incubation, about 85% of the beta-endorphin-related material synthesized during the 30-min pulse incubation had been transferred from the rough endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi apparatus to the secretory granule fraction. The conversion of most of the newly synthesized pro-ACTH/endorphin into beta-lipotropin occurred in the rough endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi apparatus fraction, whereas the conversion of most of the beta-lipotropin into beta-endorphin-sized molecules occurred in the secretory granule fraction.