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J Biol Chem. 1991 Feb 25;266(6):3900-6.

Structural and functional studies of cross-linked Go protein subunits.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115.


The guanine nucleotide binding proteins (G proteins) that couple hormone and other receptors to a variety of intracellular effector enzymes and ion channels are heterotrimers of alpha, beta, and gamma subunits. One way to study the interfaces between subunits is to analyze the consequences of chemically cross-linking them. We have used 1,6-bismaleimidohexane (BMH), a homobifunctional cross-linking reagent that reacts with sulfhydryl groups, to cross-link alpha to beta subunits of Go and Gi-1. Two cross-linked products are formed from each G protein with apparent molecular masses of 140 and 122 kDa on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Both bands formed from Go reacted with anti-alpha o and anti-beta antibody. The mobility on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis is anomalous since the undenatured, cross-linked proteins have the same Stokes radius as the native, uncross-linked alpha beta gamma heterotrimer. Therefore, each cross-linked product contains one alpha and one beta subunit. Activation of Go by guanosine 5'-3-O-(thio)triphosphate (GTP gamma S) does not prevent cross-linking of alpha to beta gamma, consistent with an equilibrium between associated and dissociated subunits even in the presence of GTP gamma S. The same cross-linked products of Go are formed in brain membranes reacted with BMH as are formed in solution, indicating that the residues cross-linked by BMH in the pure protein are accessible when Go is membrane bound. Analysis of tryptic peptides formed from the cross-linked products indicates that the alpha subunit is cross-linked to the 26-kDa carboxyl-terminal portion of the beta subunit. The cross-linked G protein is functional, and its alpha subunit can change conformation upon binding GTP gamma S. GTP gamma S stabilizes alpha o to digestion by trypsin (Winslow, J.W., Van Amsterdam, J.R., and Neer, E.J. (1986) J. Biol. Chem. 261, 7571-7579) and also stabilizes the alpha subunit in the cross-linked product. Cross-linked G o can be ADP-ribosylated by pertussis toxin. This ADP-ribosylation is inhibited by GTP gamma S with a concentration dependence that is indistinguishable from that of the control, uncross-linked G o. These two kinds of experiments indicate that alpha o is able to change its conformation even though it cannot separate completely from beta gamma. Thus, although dissociation of the subunits accompanies activation of G o in solution, it is not obligatory for a conformational change to occur in the alpha subunit.

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