The major integral plasma membrane protein (IP39) of Euglena gracilis was radiolabeled, peptide mapped, and dissected with proteases to identify cytoplasmic domains that bind and anchor proteins of the cell surface. When plasma membranes were radioiodinated and extracted with octyl glucoside, 98% of the extracted label was found in IP39 or the 68- and 110-kD oligomers of IP39. The octyl glucoside extracts were incubated with unlabeled cell surface proteins immobilized on nitrocellulose (overlays). Radiolabel from the membrane extract bound one (80 kD) of the two (80 and 86 kD) major membrane skeletal protein bands. Resolubilization of the bound label yielded a radiolabeled polypeptide identical in Mr to IP39. Intact plasma membranes were also digested with papain before or after radioiodination, thereby producing a cytoplasmically truncated IP39. The octyl glucoside extract of truncated IP39 no longer bound to the 80-kD membrane skeletal protein in the nitrocellulose overlays. EM of intact or trypsin digested plasma membranes incubated with membrane skeletal proteins under stringent conditions similar to those used in the nitrocellulose overlays revealed a partially reformed membrane skeletal layer. Little evidence of a membrane skeletal layer was found, however, when plasma membranes were predigested with papain before reassociation. A candidate 80-kD binding domain of IP39 has been tentatively identified as a peptide fragment that was present after trypsin digestion of plasma membranes, but was absent after papain digestion in two-dimensional peptide maps of IP39. Together, these data suggest that the unique peripheral membrane skeleton of Euglena binds to the plasma membrane through noncovalent interactions between the major 80-kD membrane skeletal protein and a small, papain sensitive cytoplasmic domain of IP39. Other (62, 51, and 25 kD) quantitatively minor peripheral proteins also interact with IP39 on the nitrocellulose overlays, and the possible significance of this binding is discussed.

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