Reduction of human thyroid membranes with dithiothreitol caused the release of a water-soluble glycoprotein which neutralized the thyrotropin (TSH) receptor-binding and thyroid-stimulating activities of Graves‘ serum. Analysis of the protein by gel filtration and sucrose density gradient centrifugation allowed estimates of 3.45 nm for the Stokes’ radius, 3.6 S for the s20,w and 47 000 +/- 5000 (mean +/- S.D.; n = 4) for the Mr. The material released by dithiothreitol treatment could be crosslinked to 125I-labelled TSH coupled to N-hydroxysuccinimidyl 4-azidobenzoate (125I-HSAB-TSH), suggesting that it contained a component of the TSH receptor. Furthermore, analysis of the crosslinked material by sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis indicated that it contained the TSH receptor A subunit (Mr 50 000). Several factors suggested therefore that the glycoprotein released by dithiothreitol treatment of human thyroid membranes was the TSH receptor A subunit. In particular, (a) both preparations were hydrophilic and were released from membranes by reduction, (b) they had similar Mr values and (c) both preparations crosslinked to 125I-HSAB-TSH. Material similar to the TSH receptor A subunit was released from thyroid membranes by treatment with papain, probably as a result of cleavage of the receptor A subunit at a site close to the interchain disulphide bridge. A similar mechanism, involving thyroid proteinases, was probably involved in release of material with similar properties to the TSH receptor A subunit during freezing and thawing of human thyroid homogenates.

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