The gamma subunit of the Na,K-ATPase is a small membrane protein that copurifies with the alpha and beta subunits of the enzyme. Strong evidence that the gamma subunit is a component of the Na,K-ATPase comes from studies indicating that the subunit is involved in forming the site for cardiac glycoside binding. We have isolated and characterized the cDNAs coding the gamma subunit from several species. The gamma subunit is a highly conserved protein consisting of 58 amino acids with a molecular weight of 6500. Hydropathy analysis reveals the presence of a single hydrophobic domain that is sufficient to cross the membrane. There are no sites for N-linked glycosylation. Northern blot analysis revealed that the gamma subunit mRNA is expressed in a tissue-specific fashion and is present in all tissues characterized. gamma-specific antibodies have been used to verify that the sequenced protein is the same protein labeled by [3H]nitroazidobenzoyl-ouabain (NAB-ouabain), and that this protein, the gamma subunit of the Na,K-ATPase, has a distribution pattern along nephron segments that is identical with the alpha subunit. In addition, coimmunoprecipitation of the alpha, beta and gamma subunits demonstrate specific association of the subunits. These results are consistent with the notion that the gamma subunit is specifically associated with and may be an important component of the Na,K-ATPase.

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