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Endocrinology. 1984 Nov;115(5):1828-37.

Structural analysis and subunit interaction of insulin receptor from membranes of cultured embryonic chick heart cells.


In previous studies of cultured embryonic chick heart, insulin hyperpolarized cells and slowed their beat rate through occupancy of a high affinity receptor. In the present studies, we chemically characterize the native structure and subunit interactions of this insulin receptor. A stokes radius of 87 A and an apparent molecular mass of 350,000 daltons were found for membrane proteins specifically cross-linked to [125I] insulin by disuccinimidyl suberate. A primary subunit of 125,000 daltons in dithiothreitol or 115,000 daltons in its absence (alpha-subunit) was heavily cross-linked. A smaller subunit had a size of 90,000 daltons (beta-subunit). This beta-subunit was not readily labeled by [125I]insulin cross-linking, but insulin enhanced 32P incorporation from [gamma-32P]ATP, enabling its visualization. Subunit interaction could be studied, because alkaline conditions produced dissociation of the native 350,000-dalton receptor. This spontaneous dissociation was not a result of proteolysis and was prevented by acid conditions, oxidants, or N-ethylmaleimide. Using alkaline conditions followed by chemical reduction in two-way gels, we directly visualized the native complex of 350,000 daltons dissociating into combinations of subunits of apparent sizes of 290,000 (alpha 2 beta), 220,000 (alpha alpha), and 195,000 (alpha beta) daltons. Dithiothreitol produced combinations of subunits, which differed from alkaline dissociation. In alkaline conditions, the 290,000 (alpha 2 beta) and 220,000 (alpha alpha) dalton combinations predominated, whereas dithiothreitol produced 190,000 (alpha beta)-dalton proteins, which suggested that alpha-S-S-alpha disulfide bonds existed and were susceptible to chemical reductants, while alpha-S-S-beta disulfide bonds were more sensitive to alkaline lysis. We conclude from these observations that the native insulin receptor of embryonic chick heart cell exists on the sarcolemmal membrane as a relatively homogeneous tetramer of nonhomologous subunits in an alpha 2 beta 2 configuration. The alpha-subunits are the primary sites for insulin binding, and a beta-subunit is autophosphorylated. alpha-S-S-alpha and alpha-S-S-beta bonding exist, and these disulfide bonds have different sensitivities to chemical reducing agents and alkaline lysis.

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