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J Mol Biol. 1995 May 19;248(5):887-900.

Towards the molecular architecture of the asymmetric unit membrane of the mammalian urinary bladder epithelium: a closed "twisted ribbon" structure.

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M. E. Müller Institute for Structural Biology Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland.


The asymmetric unit membrane (AUM) forms numerous plaques covering the apical surface of mammalian urinary bladder epithelium. These plaques contain four major integral membrane proteins called uroplakins Ia, Ib, II and III, which form particles arranged in a well-ordered hexagonal lattice with p6 symmetry and a lattice constant of 16.5 nm. Bovine AUM plaques negatively stained with anionic sodium silicotungstate revealed structural detail to 3.1 nm resolution. Correlation averaging resolved each particle into 12 stain-excluding domains arranged in two concentric rings (inner ring radius (rm) = 3.7 nm, outer ring radius (rout) = 6.6 nm), each with six domains which were rotated by roughly 30 degrees relative to each other. Negative staining with cationic uranyl formate increased the resolution to 2.2 nm and unveiled distinct connections between adjacent AUM particles. These connections may provide a molecular basis for the observed insolubility of the plaques in many detergents. Examination of the luminal face of freeze-dried/unidirectionally metal-shadowed AUM plaques established a left-handed vorticity of the 16 nm protein particles, whereas the cytoplasmic face exhibited no significant surface corrugations. Three-dimensional reconstruction from sodium silicotungstate-stained specimens revealed the AUM particles to be built of six "V-shaped" subunits anchored upright in the membrane. The mass density distribution within uranyl formate-stained AUM particles was similar except that the inner tip of each V was bridged to the outer tip of an adjacent V, so that the 16 nm AUM particle appeared as a continuous, "twisted ribbon" embracing a central cavity. Finally, mass measurements of unstained/freeze-dried plaques by scanning transmission electron microscopy yielded a total mass of 1,120 kDa per membrane-bound AUM particle. By imposing constraints on the possible uroplakin stoichiometries within AUM plaques, these data provide a first glimpse of the molecular architecture of the 16 nm particles constituting the plaques.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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