Three distinct G-protein alpha o-subtypes, i.e. alpha o1, alpha o2 and a newly observed ‘alpha o3’, are present in membranes of mammalian brain, each appearing as two isoforms on SDS/PAGE. Only alpha o1 and alpha o2 appear to be substrates for pertussis toxin (PTX) when membranes or partially purified proteins are examined. In order to elucidate the apparent PTX-resistance of the third alpha o-subtype, we purified alpha o3 from porcine and bovine brain membranes. During the purification procedures, alpha o3 occurred in its dissociated monomeric form and, together with beta gamma-complexes, as a heterotrimer. In a first attempt, we used purified G-protein alpha i/alpha o-mixtures to obtain a final separation of alpha o3. By using f.p.l.c. anion-exchange chromatography on a Mono Q column, complete separation of alpha i1 and alpha o2 was achieved. Partial resolution of alpha o1, alpha i2 and alpha o3 was observed; alpha o3 was eluted between alpha o1 and alpha i2. If alpha o-subunits free from alpha i contaminants were loaded on to the Mono Q column, all three alpha o-subtypes were resolved. The identity of the third subtype as an alpha o-subtype was confirmed by sequence analysis of tryptic fragments. All three alpha o-subtypes bound GTP[S]. Purified alpha o3 was ADP-ribosylated when subjected to PTX treatment in the presence of beta gamma-subunits, and on SDS/PAGE the mobility of alpha o3 was similar to that of ADP-ribosylated alpha o1. On the basis of results obtained with subtype-specific antibodies, the third alpha o-subtype is immunologically more related to alpha o1 than to alpha o2. Purified alpha o3 failed to reconstitute carbachol-mediated inhibition of Ca2+ current in PTX-pretreated SH-SY5Y-cells, whereas alpha o1 and alpha o2 did successfully restore this effect. We conclude that the novel alpha o3 forms differs from alpha o1 and alpha o2 in its primary structure and may be involved in signal-transduction pathways other than those described for alpha o1 and alpha o2.

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