Desmosomes are intercellular adhering junctions characterized by a special structure and certain obligatory constituent proteins such as the cytoplasmic protein, desmoglein. Desmosomal fractions from bovine muzzle epidermis contain, in addition, a major polypeptide of Mr approximately 75,000 ("band 6 protein") which differs from all other desmosomal proteins so far identified by its positive charge (isoelectric at pH approximately 8.5 in the denatured state) and its avidity to bind certain type I cytokeratins under stringent conditions. We purified this protein from bovine muzzle epidermis and raised antibodies to it. Using affinity-purified antibodies, we identified a protein of identical SDS-PAGE mobility and isoelectric pH in all epithelia of higher complexity, including representatives of stratified, complex (pseudostratified) and transitional epithelia as well as benign and malignant human tumors derived from such epithelia. Immunolocalization studies revealed the location of this protein along cell boundaries in stratified and complex epithelia, often resolved into punctate arrays. In some epithelia it seemed to be restricted to certain cell types and layers; in rat cornea, for example, it was only detected in upper strata. Electron microscopic immunolocalization showed that this protein is a component of the desmosomal plaque. However, it was not found in the desmosomes of all simple epithelia examined, in the tumors and cultured cells derived thereof, in myocardiac and Purkinje fiber cells, in arachnoideal cells and meningiomas, and in dendritic reticulum cells of lymphoid tissue, i.e., all cells containing typical desmosomes. The protein was also absent in all nondesmosomal adhering junctions. From these results we conclude that this basic protein is not an obligatory desmosomal plaque constituent but an accessory component specific to the desmosomes of certain kinds of epithelial cells with stratified tissue architecture. This suggests that the Mr 75,000 basic protein does not serve general desmosomal functions but rather cell type-specific ones and that the composition of the desmosomal plaque can be different in different cell types. The possible diagnostic value of this protein as a marker in cell typing is discussed.

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