The quantitative determination of pertussis-toxin-sensitive guanine-nucleotide-binding proteins (G-proteins) in cell membranes is still a problem. Pertussis-toxin-catalysed [32P]ADP-ribosylation strongly relies on the substrate quality of the alpha-subunits and is influenced by the concentration of nucleotides, beta gamma-subunits, the physicochemical properties of the membranes influencing the availability of Gi alpha for pertussis toxin, and covalent modification of Gi alpha. Quantification of immunoreactive material on Western blots can be only imprecisely performed by two-dimensional densitometry. In order to generate a method for quantification of pertussis-toxin-sensitive G-proteins in membranes we have developed a fast and sensitive radioimmunoassay. The C-terminal decapeptide of retinal transducin alpha (KENLKDCGLF) was 125I-labelled and used as tracer. Polyclonal antiserum (DS 4) was raised against this peptide. Gi alpha proteins were determined by competition of solubilized membranes for 125I-KENLKDCGLF binding to DS 4 using dilutions of retinal transducin alpha as standard. The interassay variation was less than 10%, with a sensitivity of 2.5 micrograms/ml. The density of Gi alpha was highest in human adipose tissue, followed by HL60 cells, lung, mononuclear leucocytes, thrombocytes and left ventricular myocardium. A striking difference was observed between the density of Gi alpha and the amount of incorporation of [32P]ADP-ribose into the 40 kDa membrane proteins by pertussis toxin in the same samples. This is also demonstrated by comparison of the weak [32P]ATP-ribosylation of pertussis toxin substrates with the density of immunoreactive Gi alpha on Western blots in tissues such as lung. This study shows that the Gi alpha content can be exactly determined by a sensitive and fast radioimmunoassay using iodinated synthetic peptide homologues of Gi alpha proteins. Radioimmunological quantification of Gi alpha might be able to detect the ‘true’ Gi alpha content of membranes without being hampered by influences on the [32P]ADP-ribosylation reaction. It is concluded that this newly developed method may become an important tool for studying expression of Gi alpha proteins in a variety of tissues or cell types, and for precisely quantifying the changes caused by pathological conditions.

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