The endogenous lectins of Dictyostelium discoideum, called discoidins I and II, have been implicated in cell cohesion during the associative phase of this organism. In an effort to repeat and extend the studies of these putative cell-surface proteins, we attempted a variety of immunocytochemical techniques. Antibodies to a mixture of the purified discoidins were raised in rabbit. Both living and fixed cells were examined by indirect immunoferritin labeling using whole antiserum and by direct immunolabeling using purified specific IgG adsorbed to colloidal gold. Cells, at the appropriate stage, of strains A3, NC-4, and WS-582 were tested. In no instance were cell surface antigens detected despite meticulous efforts to duplicate the published techniques and to extend and refine them. Specific localization was found only in the cytosol and on the cytoplasmic face of certain endomembrane vesicles, and much less so on outer nuclear and mitochondrial membranes, in inadvertently disrupted cells. In no case was specific label found on either side of the plasma membrane or on food vacuoles. Exogenously supplied discoidins, bound to cells, were successfully localized by our technique. We conclude that the discoidins are not present on the cell surface, or are there in undetectable quantities, during the associative phase. We suggest that previous demonstrations of these proteins at the cell surface were artifacts resulting from the way in which the cells were handled, which caused the binding of externalized discoidins, possibly those released from lysed cells. We believe that the current notion that the discoidins play a direct role in cell cohesion by virtue of their carbohydrate-binding capacity should be reexamined. We suggest that the true role of the discoidins is solely intracellular.

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