Recently we developed an isolation procedure for the cell-to-cell adherens junctions (AJ; cadherin-based junctions) from rat liver (Tsukita, Sh. and Sa. Tsukita. 1989. J. Cell Biol. 108:31-41). In this study, using the isolated AJ, we have obtained two mAbs specific to the 220-kD undercoat-constitutive protein. Immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy with these mAbs showed that this 220-kD protein was highly concentrated at the undercoat of cell-to-cell AJ in various types of tissues and that this protein was located in the immediate vicinity of the plasma membrane in the undercoat of AJ. In the cells lacking typical cell-to-cell AJ, such as fibroblasts, the 220-kD protein was immunofluorescently shown to be coconcentrated with cadherin molecules at cell-cell adhesion sites. These localization analyses appeared to indicate the possible direct or indirect association of the 220-kD protein with cadherin molecules. Furthermore, it was revealed that the 220-kD protein and alpha-spectrin were coimmunoprecipitated with the above mAbs in both the isolated AJ and the brain. The affinity-purified 220-kD protein molecule looked like a spherical particle, and its binding site on the spectrin molecule was shown to be in the position approximately 10-20 nm from the midpoint of spectrin tetramer by low-angle rotary-shadowing electron microscopy. Taking all these results together with biochemical and immunological comparisons, we are persuaded to speculate that the 220-kD protein is a novel member of the ankyrin family. However, the possibility cannot be excluded that the 220-kD protein is an isoform of beta-spectrin. The possible roles of this 220-kD protein in the association of cadherin molecules with the spectrin-based membrane skeletons at the cadherin-based cell-cell adhesion sites are discussed.

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