We have examined the functional co-assembly of non-complementary pairs of N- and C-terminal polypeptide fragments of the anion transport domain (b3mem) of human red-cell band 3. cDNA clones encoding non-contiguous pairs of fragments with one transmembrane (TM) region omitted, or overlapping pairs of fragments with between one and ten TM regions duplicated, were co-expressed in Xenopus oocytes and a cell-free translation system. Stilbene disulphonate-sensitive chloride uptake assays in oocytes revealed that the omission of any single TM region of b3mem except spans 6 and 7 caused a complete loss of functional expression. In contrast, co-expressed pairs of fragments overlapping a single TM region 5, 6, 7, 8, 9-10 or 11-12 retained a high level of functionality, whereas fragments overlapping the clusters of TM regions 2-5, 4-5, 5-8 and 8-10 also mediated some stilbene disulphonate-sensitive uptake. The co-assembly of N- or C-terminal fragments with intact band 3, b3mem or other fragments was examined by co-immunoprecipitation in non-denaturing detergent solutions by using monoclonal antibodies against the termini of b3mem. All the fragments, except for TM spans 13-14, co-immunoprecipitated with b3mem. The medium-sized N-terminal fragments comprising spans 1-6, 1-7 or 1-8 co-immunoprecipitated particularly strongly with the C-terminal fragments containing spans 8-14 or 9-14. The fragments comprising spans 1-4 or 1-12 co-immunoprecipitated less extensively than the other N-terminal fragments with either b3mem or C-terminal fragments. There is sufficient flexibility in the structure of b3mem to allow the inclusion of at least one duplicated TM span without a loss of function. We propose a working model for the organization of TM spans of dimeric band 3 based on current evidence.

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