The p62/E2 protein of Semliki Forest virus (SFV) is a typical transmembrane glycoprotein, with an amino-terminal lumenal domain, a transmembrane (hydrophobic) domain, and a carboxy-terminal cytoplasmic domain (or tail). Our hypothesis has been that the membrane-binding polypeptide region (membrane anchor) of this protein consists of both the transmembrane domain and the adjacent positively charged peptide, Arg-Ser-Lys, which is part of the cytoplasmic domain. We have investigated three anchor mutants of the p62 protein with respect to both their disposition and their stability in cell membranes. The construction of the three mutants has been described (Cutler, D.F., and H. Garoff, J. Cell Biol., 102:889-901). They are as follows: A1, changing the basic charge cluster from Arg-Ser-Lys(+2) to Gly-Ser-Glu(-1); A2, replacing an Ala in the middle of the hydrophobic stretch with a Glu; A3, changing the charge cluster from Arg-Ser-Lys(+2) to Gly-Ser-Met(0). All three mutants retain the transmembrane configuration of the wild-type p62. In a cell homogenate they have a cytoplasmic domain that is accessible to protease. In living cells an anti-peptide antibody specific for the cytoplasmic tail of p62 reacts with the tails of both wild-type and mutant p62s following its introduction into the cytoplasm. All three mutant proteins have Triton X-114 binding properties similar to the wild-type p62. However, when the membranes of cells expressing the three mutants or the wild-type p62 protein are washed with sodium carbonate, pH 11.5, three to four times as much mutant protein as wild-type p62 is released from the membranes. Thus the stability in cell membranes of the three mutant p62 proteins is significantly reduced.

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