Pharmacological studies have suggested that the somatostatin (SS) receptor is heterogeneous and exhibits SS-14-and SS-28-selective subtypes. Whether such subtypes arise from molecular heterogeneity of the receptor protein has not been definitively established. Previous reports characterizing the molecular properties of the SS receptor by the cross-linking approach have yielded divergent size estimates ranging from 27 kDa to 200 kDa. In order to resolve this discrepancy, as well as to determine whether SS-14 and SS-28 interact with specific receptor proteins, we have cross-linked radioiodinated derivatives of [125I-Tyr11]SS-14 (T*-SS-14) and [Leu8,D-Trp22,125I-Tyr25]SS-28 (LTT*-SS-28) to membrane SS receptors in rat brain, pituitary, exocrine pancreas and adrenal cortex using a number of chemical and photoaffinity cross-linking agents. The labelled cross-linked receptor proteins were analysed by SDS/PAGE under reducing conditions followed by autoradiography. Our findings indicate that the pattern of specifically labelled cross-linked SS receptor proteins is sensitive to the concentration of chemical cross-linking agents such as disuccinimidyl suberate and dithiobis-(succinimidyl propionate). Labelled high-molecular-mass complexes of cross-linked receptor-ligand proteins were observed only when high concentrations of these cross-linkers were employed. Using optimized low concentrations of cross-linkers, however, two major labelled bands of 58 +/- 3 kDa and 27 +/- 2 kDa were detected. These two bands were identified as specifically labelled SS receptor proteins subsequent to cross-linking with a number of photoaffinity cross-linking agents as well. We demonstrate here that the 58 kDa protein is the major SS receptor protein in the rat pituitary, adrenal and exocrine pancreas, whereas the 27 kDa moiety represents the principal form in the brain. Additionally, the presence of a minor specifically labelled band of 32 kDa was detected uniquely in the brain, and a minor labelled protein of 42 kDa was observed in the pancreas. The labelling pattern obtained with LTT*-SS-28 was identical to that observed with T*-SS-14. Labelling of the 27 kDa band by either ligand was inhibited by SS-14 and SS-28 in a dose-dependent manner. Densitometric quantification showed that SS-14 exhibited greater than 2-fold greater potency than SS-28 for inhibiting the labelling of the 27 kDa species. These findings emphasize the need for careful interpretation of cross-linking data obtained for SS receptors, and provide evidence for molecular heterogeneity and for a tissue-specific distribution of the two principal SS receptor proteins.

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