A variety of cell membrane proteins become phosphorylated in their ecto-domains by cell-surface protein kinase (ecto-PK) activities, as detected in a broad spectrum of cell types. This study reports the isolation and identification of a frequent ecto-PK substrate, ecto-p120, using HeLa cells as a model. Data from MS and further biochemical and immunochemical means identified ecto-p120 as a cell-surface homologue of human nucleolar phosphoprotein p140 (hNopp140), which belongs to the family of argyrophilic (AgNOR-stainable) proteins. The superposition of 32P-labelled ecto-nucleolar phosphoprotein p140 (ecto-Nopp140) with anti-Nopp140 immunostaining could be demonstrated in a wide range of cell lines without any exceptions, suggesting a nearly universal occurrence of cell-surface Nopp140. A previous, tentative association of ecto-p120 with the nucleoplasmic pre-mRNA-binding protein hnRNP U has thus been supplanted, since improved purification techniques have allowed unambiguous identification of this ecto-PK cell-surface substrate. Furthermore, we have shown that rapid suppression of ecto-hNopp140 phosphorylation resulted upon a rise in the free extracellular calcium, while lowering the calcium concentrations returned ecto-Nopp140 phosphorylation to the original level. It is important to note that these Ca2+-dependent effects on ecto-Nopp140 phosphorylation are not accompanied by alterations in the phosphorylation of other ecto-PK substrates. Our results indicate that, in addition to nucleolin, a further nucleolar protein, which was considered initially to be strictly intracellular, is identified as a cell-surface phosphoprotein.

Abbreviations used: CK2, protein formerly known as casein kinase 2; 1D/2D, one-/two-dimensional; ECL®, enhanced chemiluminescence; (ecto-)PK, (cell-surface) protein kinase, IEF, isoelectric focusing; MALDI-MS, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization MS; Nopp140, nucleolar phosphoprotein p140; NOR, nucleolus organizer region.

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