The cellular distribution, membrane orientation, and biochemical properties of the two major NaOH-insoluble (integral) plasma membrane proteins of Euglena are detailed. We present evidence which suggests that these two polypeptides (Mr 68 and 39 kD) are dimer and monomer of the same protein: (a) Antibodies directed against either the 68- or the 39-kD polypeptide bind to both 68- and 39-kD bands in Western blots. (b) Trypsin digests of the 68- and 39-kD polypeptides yield similar peptide fragments. (c) The 68- and 39-kD polypeptides interconvert during successive electrophoresis runs in the presence of SDS and beta-mercaptoethanol. (d) The 39-kD band is the only major integral membrane protein evident after isoelectric focusing in acrylamide gels. The apparent shift from 68 to 39 kD in focusing gels has been duplicated in denaturing SDS gels by adding ampholyte solutions directly to the protein samples. The membrane orientation of the 39-kD protein and its 68-kD dimer has been assessed by radioiodination in situ using intact cells or purified plasma membranes. Putative monomers and dimers are labeled only when the cytoplasmic side of the membrane is exposed. These results together with trypsin digestion data suggest that the 39-kD protein and its dimer have an asymmetric membrane orientation with a substantial cytoplasmic domain but with no detectable extracellular region. Immunolabeling of sectioned cells indicates that the plasma membrane is the only cellular membrane with significant amounts of 39-kD protein. No major 68- or 39-kD polypeptide bands are evident in SDS acrylamide gels or immunoblots of electrophoresed whole flagella or preparations enriched in flagellar membrane vesicles, nor is there a detectable shift in any flagellar polypeptide in the presence of ampholyte solutions. These findings are considered with respect to the well-known internal crystalline organization of the euglenoid plasma membrane and to the potential for these proteins to serve as anchors for membrane skeletal proteins.

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