The myelin-associated glycoproteins (MAG) are members of the immunoglobulin gene superfamily that function in the cell interactions of myelinating glial cells with axons. In this paper, we have characterized the structural features of these proteins. The disposition of MAG in the bilayer as a type 1 integral membrane protein (with an extracellularly disposed amino terminus, single transmembrane segment, and cytoplasmic carboxy terminus) was demonstrated in protease protection studies of MAG cotranslationally inserted into microsomes in vitro and in immunofluorescent studies with site specific antibodies. A genetically engineered MAG cDNA, which lacks the putative membrane spanning segment, was constructed and shown to encode a secreted protein. These results confirm the identify of this hydrophobic sequence as the transmembrane segment. Sequencing of the secreted protein demonstrated the presence of a cleaved signal sequence and the site of signal peptidase cleavage. To characterize the disulfide linkage pattern of the ectodomain, we cleaved MAG with cyanogen bromide and used a panel of antibodies to coprecipitate specific fragments under nonreducing conditions. These studies provide support for a novel disulfide linkage between two of the immunoglobulin domains of the extracellular segment. Finally, we report that MAG is posttranslationally palmitylated via an intramembranous thioester linkage. Based on these studies, we propose a model for the conformation of MAG, including its RGD sequence, which is considered with regard to its function as a cell adhesion molecule.

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