Analysis of human platelet membrane proteins by crossed immunoelectrophoresis (CIE) in the presence of Triton X-100 (TX-100) has previously shown that glycoproteins (GP) IIb and IIIa are located in a single immunoprecipitate, band 16.2 To investigate whether IIb and IIIa are associated in a complex, we have analyzed TX-100-solubilized 125I-labeled membrane proteins by density gradient ultracentrifugation using 10%-40% sucrose gradients containing the nonionic detergent. studies were performed using soluble proteins derived from membranes isolated in the presence or absence of EDTA. Analysis of gradient fractions by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis showed that in the absence of divalent cation chelation, GP IIb and IIIa penetrated well into the gradient (fractions 15–17). Analysis of fractions 15–17 by CIE revealed the presence of band 16. In contrast, when the membrane proteins were incubated with EDTA prior to or after TX-100 solubilization, IIb and IIIa remained near the top of the gradient (fractions 8–11) and gave separate immunoprecipitates during CIE. Incubation of washed platelet lysates with leupeptin, an inhibitor of the Ca2+-dependent protease of human platelets, had no effect on the shape of the band 16 immunoprecipitate. Thus, for the first time, direct evidence has been obtained that GP IIb and IIIa may form a divalent cation-mediated complex. Calibration of the sedimentation profiles using proteins of known molecular weight suggests that the complex is of limited size. Indirect evidence suggests that the complex is a heterodimer.

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