The proteins of rat liver cytoplasm, nuclear washes, matrix, membrane, heterogeneous nuclear (hn)RNA proteins and chromatin were examined by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. The inclusion in the gels of six common protein standards of carefully selected molecular weight and isoelectric point allowed us to clearly follow the distribution of specific proteins during nuclear extraction. In the nuclear washes and chromatin, we observed five classes of proteins: (a) Exclusively cytoplasmic proteins, present in the first saline-EDTA wash but rapidly disappearing from subsequent washes; (b) ubiquitous proteins of 75,000, 68,000, 57,000, and 43,000 mol wt, the latter being actin, found in the cytoplasm, all nuclear washes and the final chromatin pellet; (c) proteins of 94,000, 25,000, and 20,500 mol wt specific to the nuclear washes; (d) proteins present in the nuclear washes and final chromatin, represented by species at 62,000, 55,000, 54,000, and 48,000 mol wt, primarily derived from the nuclear matrix; and (e) two proteins of 68,000 mol wt present only in the final chromatin. The major 65,000-75,000-mol wt proteins seen by one-dimensional gel electrophoresis of nuclear matrix were very heterogeneous and contained a major acidic, an intermediate, and a basic group. A single 68,000-mol wt polypeptide constituted the majority of the membrane-lamina fraction, consistent with immunological studies indicating that a distinct subset of matrix proteins occurs, associated with heterochromatin, at the periphery of the nucleus. Actin was the second major nuclear membrane-lamina protein. Two polypeptides at 36,000 and 34,000 mol wt constituted 60% of the hnRNP. Approximately 80% of the mass of the nonhistone chromosomal proteins (NHP) from unwashed nuclei is contributed by nuclear matrix and hnRNPs, and essentially the same patterns were seen with chromatin NHP. The concept of NHP being a distinct set of DNA-bound proteins is unnecessarily limiting. Many are derived from the nuclear matrix or hnRNp particles and vary in the degree to which they share different intracellular compartments.

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