Cell-cell contact is an important determinant in the formation of functionally distinct plasma membrane domains during the development of epithelial cell polarity. In cultures of Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells, cell-cell contact induces the assembly and accumulation of the Na+,K+-ATPase and elements of the membrane-cytoskeleton (ankyrin and fodrin) at the regions of cell-cell contact. Epithelial cell-cell contact appears to be regulated by the cell adhesion molecule uvomorulin (E-cadherin) which also becomes localized at the lateral plasma membrane of polarized cells. We have sought to determine whether the colocalization of these proteins reflects direct molecular interactions which may play roles in coordinating cell-cell contact and the assembly of the basal-lateral domain of the plasma membrane. Recently, we identified a complex of proteins containing the Na+,K+-ATPase, ankyrin, and fodrin in extracts of whole MDCK cells (Nelson, W.J., and R. W. Hammerton. 1989. J. Cell Biol. 108:893-902). We have now examined cell extracts for protein complexes containing the cell adhesion molecule uvomorulin. Proteins were solubilized from whole MDCK cells and fractionated in sucrose gradients. The sedimentation profile of solubilized uvomorulin is well separated from the majority of cell surface proteins, suggesting that uvomorulin occurs in a protein complex. A distinct portion of uvomorulin (30%) cosediments with ankyrin and fodrin (approximately 10.5S). Further fractionation of cosedimenting proteins in nondenaturing polyacrylamide gels reveals a discrete band of proteins that binds antibodies specific for uvomorulin, Na+,K+-ATPase, ankyrin, and fodrin. Significantly, ankyrin and fodrin, but not Na+K+-ATPase, coimmunoprecipitate in a complex with uvomorulin using uvomorulin antibodies. This result indicates that separate complexes exist containing ankyrin and fodrin with either uvomorulin or Na+,K+-ATPase. These results are discussed in the context of the possible roles of uvomorulin-induced cell-cell contact in the assembly of the membrane-cytoskeleton and associated membrane proteins (e.g., Na+,K+-ATPase) at the contact zone and in the development of cell polarity.

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