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Blood Cells Mol Dis. 2004 May-Jun;32(3):408-10.

Antibodies to betaISigma2 spectrin identify in-homogeneities in the erythrocyte membrane skeleton.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University, 310 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


The cortical cytoskeleton of the mammalian red cell, composed of spectrin, actin, protein 4.1, adducin, and protein 4.9, is generally regarded as a homogeneous structure that maintains the integrity of the membrane and the lateral disposition of integral membrane proteins. The major component of this structure is a hetero-oligomer of alphaI and betaISigma1 spectrin. In other tissues, most notably muscle and brain, a transcript of the betaI spectrin gene is generated by alternative exon utilization, yielding a protein that has the COOH-terminal 19 residues of betaISigma1 spectrin replaced by 210 novel residues to generate betaISigma2 spectrin. This new transcript contains a pleckstrin homology (PH) domain and may even exist under some conditions in a homopolymeric form. Using antibodies specific for the COOH-terminal domains of either betaISigma1 or betaISigma2 spectrin, we find that contrary to previous understandings, mature human erythrocytes contain a subpopulation of spectrin that is immunoreactive with antibodies to the betaISigma2 isoform, and that this spectrin is distributed into distinct plasma membrane patches. These results suggest that the native mammalian erythrocyte membrane skeleton, rather than being homogeneous, contains discrete submicron-scale microdomains that differ in both their composition and dispersion across the cell surface. The precise nature and role of these putative microdomains is under active investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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