An integral sialoglycoprotein with Mr approximately 130,000 (Sgp 130) and highest expression in adult chicken gizzard smooth muscle has been recently identified as an excellent candidate for classification as a plasma membrane protein natively associated (directly or indirectly) with actin microfilaments (Rogalski, A.A., and S.J. Singer, 1985, J. Cell Biol., 101:785-801). In this study, the relative in situ distributions of the Sgp 130 integral species (a designation that also includes non-smooth muscle molecular forms) and the peripheral protein, vinculin, have been simultaneously revealed for the first time in selected cultured cells and tissues abundant in microfilament-membrane attachment sites, particularly, smooth and cardiac muscle. Specific antibody probes against Sgp 130 (mouse mAb 30B6) and vinculin (affinity-purified rabbit antibody) were used in double indirect immunofluorescent and immunoelectron microscopic experiments. In contrast to the widespread distributions of vinculin at microfilament-membrane attachment sites, Sgp 130 has been shown to exhibit striking site-specific variation in its abundancy levels in the plasma membrane. Sgp 130 and vinculin were found coincidentally concentrated at focal contact sites in cultured chick embryo fibroblasts and endothelial cells, membrane dense plaques of smooth muscle, and sarcolemma dense plaque sites overlying the Z line in cardiac muscle. However, at the fascia adherens junctional sites of cardiac muscle where vinculin is sharply confined, Sgp 130 was immunologically undetectable in both intact and EGTA-uncoupled tissue. This latter result was confirmed with immunoblotting experiments using isolated forms of the fascia adherens. The double immunolabeling studies of this report establish Sgp 130 as a major integral protein component of nonjunctional membrane dense plaque structures and raise the possibility that the 130-kD integral sialoglycoprotein (Sgp 130) and vinculin assume stable transmembrane associations at these particular microfilament-membrane attachment sites. Nonjunctional dense plaques are further suggested to be a molecularly distinct class of plasma membrane structures rather than a subgroup of adherens junctions. Our data also support a hypothesis that Sgp 130 is involved in plasma membrane force coupling events but not in junctional-related cell-cell coupling.

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