Glycoproteins which mediate intercellular adhesion were studied by comparing the effects of trypsin and the neutral proteinase, Dispase, on human keratinocytes metabolically labelled with D-[1-14C]glucosamine or L-[1-3H]fucose. Whereas digestion of keratinocytes with trypsin/EDTA resulted in loss of both cell-substratum and intercellular adhesion, only cell-substratum adhesion was disrupted by incubation with Dispase. Analysis of the radiolabelled glycoproteins by polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis revealed that a glycoprotein of Mr 126 000 was cleaved by trypsin/EDTA, but not by Dispase. Surface labelling of keratinocytes with galactose oxidase/NaB3H4 confirmed that this glycoprotein was exposed on the cell surface. Addition of lmM-Ca2+ prevented dispersion of keratinocytes by trypsin and concomitantly protected the glycoprotein of Mr 126 000 from digestion. These results indicate that this glycoprotein has an important role in mediating intercellular adhesion of keratinocytes.

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