G proteins mediate the interaction between cell surface receptors and intracellular effectors. Recent studies have shown that human retina and rat brain contain mRNA encoding a novel 40-Kd G protein alpha subunit referred to as Gz alpha. Studies with an antiserum selective for the predicted sequence of this protein have suggested that a similar protein is present in human platelets and is phosphorylated during platelet activation. To better understand the structure and function of this protein, the present studies examine its sequence in platelets and compare its abundance in human platelets, megakaryocytes, and two megakaryoblastic cell lines, HEL cells and Dami cells. Three different Gz alpha-selective antisera reacted with a 40-Kd protein in platelet membranes. None of these detected a corresponding protein in HEL or Dami cells, despite the presence in both cell lines of proteins recognized by antisera selective for three members of the Gi alpha family. Northern blotting with a Gz alpha-specific probe prepared from retinal Gz alpha showed two hybridizing species in platelet RNA: a major band at 3.5 kb and a minor band at 2.2 kb. Both were detectable in HEL and Dami cells, but at greatly reduced levels compared with platelets. RNA encoding Gz alpha was also detected in individual human megakaryocytes by in situ hybridization. The amount present approached that of Gi alpha 2′ the most abundant of the Gi alpha species present in platelets. The complete sequence of the platelet homolog to Gz alpha was determined from platelet RNA amplified by the polymerase chain reaction. The encoded protein was the same as those obtained in brain and retina. Thus, based on immunoreactivity and nucleotide sequencing, platelets and megakaryocytes contain substantial quantities of a protein identical to brain and retinal Gz alpha. The paucity of Gz alpha protein and RNA in the megakaryoblastic cell lines suggests that either there has been a selective loss of the ability to synthesize Gz alpha from these cells or that Gz alpha appears at a later stage in megakaryocyte development than does Gi alpha.

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