Two molecular defects involving the spectrin heterodimer (SpD) contact site of the alpha chain (the alpha I domain) were previously identified using limited tryptic digestion followed by two-dimensional isoelectric focusing/sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Both are characterized by atypical peptide maps which reveal a marked decrease of the 80,000-dalton alpha I domain and a formation of new major peptides of either 74,000 (Sp alpha I/74) or 46,000 (Sp alpha I/46) daltons. We now report a third variant of the spectrin alpha chain, designated Sp alpha I/65, in three unrelated black families. In all three probands, the percentage of SpD in the low ionic strength (O degrees C) membrane extracts was increased to 19% to 32%. One- and two- dimensional electrophoretic separations of limited tryptic digests of spectrin from all three probands revealed a decrease of the alpha I domain of spectrin and the concomitant appearance of peptides at 65,000 daltons and isoelectric points ranging from 5.2 to 5.3. The abnormal 65,000-dalton peptides could be stained with an antiserum which had been raised against the alpha I domain, indicating that it was derived from the alpha I domain.

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