In the preceding paper (Sheetz, M. and S.J. Singer. 1977. J Cell Biol. 73:638-646) it was shown that erythrocyte ghosts undergo pronounced shape changes in the presence of mg-ATP. The biochemical effects of the action of ATP are herein examined. The biochemical effects of the action of ATP are herein examined. Phosphorylation by ATP of spectrin component 2 of the erythrocyte membrane is known to occur. We have shown that it is only membrane protein that is significantly phosphorylated under the conditions where the shape changes are produced. The extent of this phosphorylation rises with increasing ATP concentration, reaching nearly 1 mol phosphoryle group per mole of component 2 at 8mM ATP. Most of this phosphorylation appears to occur at a single site on the protein molecule, according to cyanogen bromide peptide cleavage experiments. The degree of phosphorylation of component 2 is apparently also regulated by a membrane-bound protein phosphatase. This activity can be demonstrated in erythrocyte ghosts prepared from intact cells prelabeled with [(32)P]phosphate. In addition to the phosphorylation of component 2, some phosphorylation of lipids, mainly of phosphatidylinositol, is also known to occur. The ghost shape changes are, however, shown to be correlated with the degree of phosphorylation of component 2. In such experiment, the incorporation of exogenous phosphatases into ghosts reversed the shape changes produced by ATP, or by the membrane-intercalating drug chlorpromazine. The results obtained in this and the preceding paper are consistent with the proposal that the erythrocyte membrane possesses kinase and phosphates activities which produce phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of a specific site on spectrin component 2 molecules; the steady-state level of this phosphorylation regulates the structural state of the spectrin complex on the cytoplasmic surface of the membrane, which in turn exerts an important control on the shape of the cell.

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