ZO-1, originally identified by mAb techniques, is the first protein shown to be specifically associated with the tight junction. Here we describe and compare the physical characteristics of ZO-1 from mouse liver and the Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cell line. The ZO-1 polypeptide has an apparent size of 225 kD in mouse tissues and 210 kD in canine-derived MDCK cells as determined by SDS-PAGE/immunoblot analysis. ZO-1 from both sources is optimally solubilized from isolated plasma membranes by either 6 M urea or high pH conditions; partial solubilization occurs with 0.3 M KCl. The nonionic detergents, Triton X-100 and octyl-beta-D-glucopyranoside, do not solubilize ZO-1. These solubility properties indicate that ZO-1 is a peripherally associated membrane protein. ZO-1 was purified to electrophoretic homogeneity from [35S]methionine metabolically labeled MDCK cells by a combination of gel filtration and immunoaffinity chromatography. Purified ZO-1 has an s20,w of 5.3 and Stokes radius of 8.6 nm. These values suggest that purified ZO-1 is an asymmetric monomeric molecule. Corresponding values for mouse liver ZO-1, characterized in impure protein extracts, were 6 s20,w and 9 nm. ZO-1 was shown to be a phosphoprotein in MDCK cells metabolically labeled with [32P]orthophosphate; analysis of phosphoamino acids from purified ZO-1 revealed only phosphoserine. ZO-1 epitope number was determined by Scatchard analysis of competitive and saturable binding of two different 125I-mAbs to SDS-solubilized proteins from liver and MDCK cells immobilized on nitrocellulose. Saturation binding occurs at 26 ng mAb/mg liver and 63 ng/mg of MDCK cell protein. This is equivalent to 30,000 ZO-1 molecules per MDCK cell assuming a single epitope/ZO-1 molecule.

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