We have previously described a variant form of the integrin beta 1 subunit (beta 1B)1 characterized by an altered sequence at the cytoplasmic domain. Using polyclonal antibodies to a synthetic peptide corresponding to the unique sequence of the beta 1B, we analyzed the expression of this molecule in human tissues and cultured cells. Western blot analysis showed that the beta 1B is expressed in skin and liver and, in lower amounts, in skeletal and cardiac muscles. The protein was not detectable in brain, kidney, and smooth muscle. In vitro cultured keratinocytes and hepatoma cells are positive, but fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and smooth muscle cells are negative. An astrocytoma cell line derived from immortalized fetal astrocytes was found to express beta 1B. In these cells beta 1B represent integral of 30% of the beta 1 and form heterodimers with alpha 1 and alpha 5 subunits. To investigate the functional properties of beta 1B, the full-length cDNA coding for this molecule was transfected into CHO cells. Stable transfectants were selected and the beta 1B was identified by a mAb that discriminate between the transfected human protein and the endogenous hamster beta 1A. Immunoprecipitation experiments indicated that the beta 1B was exported at the cell surface in association with the endogenous hamster alpha subunits. The alpha 5/beta 1B complex bound to a fibronectin-affinity matrix and was specifically released by RGD-containing peptides. Thus beta 1B and beta 1A are similar as far as the alpha/beta association and fibronectin binding are concerned. The two proteins differ, however, in their subcellular localization. Immunofluorescence studies indicated, in fact, that beta 1B, in contrast to beta 1A, does not localize in focal adhesions. The restricted tissue distribution and the distinct subcellular localization, suggest that beta 1B has unique functional properties.

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