Using okadaic acid, a potent inhibitor of type 2A and type 1 protein phosphatases, and inhibitor 2, an intrinsic inhibitory factor of type 1 phosphatase, we characterized the phosphorylated myosin light-chain (PMLC) phosphatase activity in the smooth-muscle extracts of guinea-pig ileum. In the intact fibres the control activity was 254 +/- 13 nmol of Pi/min per g wet wt. (n = 15) against 32P-labelled PMLC (4 microM) from chicken gizzard. The following phosphatase fractions were identified: an inhibitor-2-sensitive (type 1) fraction (fractional activity = 35%), a Mg2+-dependent and okadaic acid-insensitive (type 2C) fraction (17%), and two type 2A-like fractions that had different susceptibility to okadaic acid. The type 2A-like fraction with lower affinity to okadaic acid accounted for 30% of the control activity. After the cell membrane was permeabilized by Triton X-100, more than 60% of this fraction remained and accounted for about 90% of the total activity, whereas the other fractions were nearly abolished. The type 2A-like fraction may be bound to some intracellular structure such as contractile proteins.

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