Membranes from tobacco cell suspension cultures were used as antigens for the preparation of monoclonal antibodies. Use of solid phase and indirect immunofluorescence assays led to the identification of hybridomas producing antibodies directed against cell surface epitopes. One of these monoclonal antibodies (11.D2) was found to recognize a molecular species which on two-dimensional analysis (using nonequilibrium pH-gradient electrophoresis and SDS-PAGE) was found to have a high and polydisperse molecular mass and a very basic isoelectric point. This component was conspicuously labeled by [3H]proline in vivo. The monoclonal antibody cross-reacted with authentic tomato extensin, but not with potato lectin nor larch arabinogalactan. Use of the monoclonal antibody as an immunoaffinity reagent allowed the purification of a tobacco glycoprotein which was identical in amino acid composition to extensin. Finally, immunocytological analyses revealed tissue-specific patterns of labeling by the monoclonal antibody that were identical to those observed with a polyclonal antibody raised against purified extensin. We have concluded that monoclonal antibody 11.D2 recognizes an epitope that is carried exclusively by extensin. Analysis of cellular homogenates through differential and isopycnic gradient centrifugation revealed that biosynthesis of the extensin epitope was found on or within the membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi region and plasma membrane. This result is consistent with the progressive glycosylation of the newly-synthesized extensin polypeptide during its passage through a typical eukaryotic endomembrane pathway of secretion. The 11.D2 epitope was not found in protoplasts freshly isolated from leaf tissues. However, on incubation of these protoplasts in appropriate culture media, biosynthesis of the epitope was initiated. This process was not impeded by the presence of chemicals that are reported to be inhibitors of cell wall production or of proline hydroxylation.

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