To approach the transmembrane signaling pathway in the cell-to-cell adherens junctions (AJ), AJ-specific tyrosine phosphorylation was analyzed. When various types of rat adult tissues were pretreated with sodium orthovanadate, a potent inhibitor of tyrosine phosphatase, immunofluorescence microscopy showed that anti-phosphotyrosine polyclonal antibody specifically stained the undercoat of the cell-to-cell AJ. This indicates that the tyrosine kinase activity is elevated at the undercoat of the cell-to-cell AJ of adult tissues. To identify tyrosine kinases responsible for the high level of tyrosine phosphorylation at AJ, we have performed in vitro phosphorylation experiments with cell-to-cell AJ isolated from rat liver (Tsukita, Sh. and Sa. Tsukita. 1989. J. Cell Biol. 108:31-41) and immunoblotting analyses with specific antibodies for tyrosine kinases. As a result, three proto-oncogenic tyrosine kinases of src family, c-yes, c-src, and lyn kinases, were identified as major tyrosine kinases in the cell-to-cell AJ of hepatocytes. Furthermore, it was immunofluorescently shown that at least two of these kinases, c-yes and c-src kinases, were enriched at the cell-to-cell AJ of various types of cells including hepatocytes. Based on these findings, it is concluded that, in various types of cells, specific proto-oncogenic tyrosine kinases of src-family (c-yes and c-src) are enriched to work as signal mediators in the cell-to-cell AJ where the level of tyrosine phosphorylation is elevated.

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