The distribution of IFAP 300, a protein previously characterized as cross-linking vimentin intermediate filaments (IF), has been investigated in epithelial cells. In frozen sections of bovine tongue epithelium the staining obtained with IFAP 300 antibodies is concentrated in the peripheral cytoplasm of keratinocytes, including the entire peripheral region of basal cells. Further immunofluorescence studies reveal that in primary cultures of mouse keratinocytes the distribution of IFAP 300 is similar to that of the desmosomal protein desmoplakin. In rat bladder carcinoma 804G cells the staining pattern of IFAP 300 antibodies coincides with that obtained with antibodies against the hemidesmosomal protein BP 230. By immunogold electron microscopy IFAP 300 is mainly located at sites where IF appear to attach to desmosomes and hemidesmosomes. Morphometric analyses of the distribution of the gold particles show that IFAP 300 overlaps with desmoplakin and BP 230, but also that it extends deeper into the cytoplasm than these latter two proteins. The staining reaction seen in epithelial cells by immunofluorescence and immunogold is specific for IFAP 300 as shown by immunoblotting. Immunoblotting also reveals that IFAP 300 is present in both cell-free preparations of desmosomes and hemidesmosomes. These morphological and biochemical results are intriguing since, in recent years, the proteins appearing in these two types of junctions have been found to be different. One possible exception is plectin, a protein that has been suggested to be very similar to IFAP 300. However, we show here that IFAP 300 differs from plectin in several respects, including differences at the primary sequence level. We also show that purified IFAP 300 pellets with in vitro polymerized IF prepared from desmosome-associated keratins under conditions in which IFAP 300 alone is not sedimentable. This indicates that IFAP 300 can associate with keratin IF. These data, taken together with the immunogold results, suggest that IFAP 300 functions in epithelial cells as a linker protein connecting IF to desmosomes as well as to hemidesmosomes, possibly through structurally related proteins such as desmoplakin and BP 230, respectively.

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