A major polypeptide of M(r) 37,000 was purified from a desmosome-enriched citric acid-insoluble pellet of pig tongue epithelium. The polypeptide was solubilized from the 4-M urea-insoluble pellet with 9 M urea, and extracts were separated by carboxymethyl cellulose and gel filtration chromatography. The 37-kD protein was obtained in milligram quantities as a single band on two-dimensional gels in 30% yield after 21-fold purification from the citric acid-insoluble fraction. The protein is not glycosylated and has a pI of approximately 8.7. Although isolated from a fraction rich in desmosomes, the 37-kD protein is not a desmosomal protein. Indirect immunofluorescence analysis of frozen sections of tongue and other tissues demonstrated that antibodies raised to the 37-kD protein bound only to suprabasal cell layers at punctate regions of the periphery of the cell and was absent from most regions of epidermis, whereas antibodies to desmoplakins I and II, desmosomal proteins, bound similarly but in all epidermal layers. Immunoelectron microscopy localized the 37-kD protein to the cell periphery in regions between, but never in, desmosomes. By immunofluorescence, the 37-kD protein colocalized with actin as well as with vinculin and uvomorulin in oral tissues. Like the 37-kD protein, vinculin and uvomorulin were absent from the basal layer. Based on its appearance, localization, and solubility properties, the 37-kD protein is probably a component of adherens junctions; its restriction to suprabasal cells and exclusion from the epidermis are unique.

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