A major cytoskeletal polypeptide (Mr approximately 46,000; protein IT) of human intestinal epithelium was characterized by biochemical and immunological methods. The polypeptide, which was identified as a specific and genuine mRNA product by translation in vitro, reacted, in immunoblotting after SDS-PAGE, only with one of numerous cytokeratin (CK) antisera tested but with none of many monoclonal CK antibodies. In vitro, it formed heterotypic complexes with the type II CK 8, as shown by blot binding assays and gel electrophoresis in 4 M urea, and these complexes assembled into intermediate filaments (IFs) under appropriate conditions. A chymotrypsin-resistant Mr approximately 38,000 core fragment of protein IT could be obtained from cytoskeletal IFs, indicating its inclusion in a coiled coil. Antibodies raised against protein IT decorated typical CK fibril arrays in normal and transformed intestinal cells. Four proteolytic peptide fragments obtained from purified polypeptide IT exhibited significant amino acid sequence homology with corresponding regions of coils I and II of the rod domain of several other type I CKs. Immunocytochemically, the protein was specifically detected as a prominent component of intestinal and gastric foveolar epithelium, urothelial umbrella cells, and Merkel cells of epidermis. Sparse positive epithelial cells were noted in the thymus, bronchus, gall bladder, and prostate gland. The expression of protein IT was generally maintained in primary and metastatic colorectal carcinomas as well as in cell cultures derived therefrom. A corresponding protein was also found in several other mammalian species. We conclude that polypeptide IT is an integral IF component which is related, though somewhat distantly, to type I CKs, and, therefore, we propose to add it to the human CK catalogue as CK 20.

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