A procedure for the preparation of a gap junction fraction from the uteri of pregnant rats is described. The uterine gap junctions, when examined by electron microscopy of thin sections and in negatively stained preparations, were similar to gap junctions isolated from heart and liver. Major proteins of similar apparent molecular weight (Mr 28,000) were found in gap junction fractions isolated from the uterus, heart, and liver, and were shown to have highly homologous structures by two-dimensional mapping of their tryptic peptides. An Mr 10,000 polypeptide, previously deduced to be a proteolytic product of the Mr 28,000 polypeptide of rat liver (Nicholson, B. J., L. J. Takemoto, M. W. Hunkapiller, L. E. Hood, and J.-P. Revel, 1983, Cell, 32:967-978), was also studied and shown by chymotryptic mapping to be homologous in the uterine, heart, and liver gap junction fractions. An antibody raised in rabbits to a synthetic peptide corresponding to an amino-terminal sequence of the liver gap junction protein recognized Mr 28,000 proteins in the three tissues studied, showing that the proteins shared common antigenic determinants. These results indicate that gap junctions are biochemically conserved plasma membrane specializations. The view that gap junctions are tissue-specific plasma membrane organelles based on previous comparisons of Mr 26,000-30,000 polypeptides is not sustained by the present results.

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