In polarized Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells, ankyrin, and the alpha- and beta-subunits of fodrin are components of the basolateral membrane-cytoskeleton and are colocalized with the Na+,K+-ATPase, a marker protein of the basolateral plasma membrane. Recently, we showed with purified proteins that the Na+,K+-ATPase is competent to bind ankyrin with high affinity and specificity (Nelson, W. J., and P. J. Veshnock. 1987. Nature (Lond.). 328:533-536). In the present study we have sought biochemical evidence for interactions between these proteins in MDCK cells. Proteins were solubilized from MDCK cells with an isotonic buffer containing Triton X-100 and fractionated rapidly in sucrose density gradients. Complexes of cosedimenting proteins were detected by analysis of sucrose gradient fractions in nondenaturing polyacrylamide gels. The results showed that ankyrin and fodrin cosedimented in sucrose gradient. Analysis of the proteins from the sucrose gradient in nondenaturing polyacrylamide gels revealed two distinct ankyrin:fodrin complexes that differed in their relative electrophoretic mobilities; both complexes had electrophoretic mobilities slower than that of purified spectrin heterotetramers. Parallel analysis of the distribution of solubilized Na+,K+-ATPase in sucrose gradients showed that there was a significant overlap with the distribution of ankyrin and fodrin. Analysis by nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis showed that the alpha- and beta-subunits of the Na+,K+-ATPase colocalized with the slower migrating of the two ankyrin:fodrin complexes. The faster migrating ankyrin:fodrin complex did not contain Na+,K+-ATPase. These results indicate strongly that the Na+,K+-ATPase, ankyrin, and fodrin are coextracted from whole MDCK cells as a protein complex. We suggest that the solubilized complex containing these proteins reflects the interaction of the Na+,K+-ATPase, ankyrin, and fodrin in the cell. This interaction may play an important role in the spatial organization of the Na+,K+-ATPase to the basolateral plasma membrane in polarized epithelial cells.

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