The ability of protein 4.1 to stimulate the binding of spectrin to F-actin has been compared by cosedimentation analysis for three avian (erythrocyte, brain, and brush border) and two mammalian (erythrocyte and brain) spectrin isoforms. Human erythroid protein 4.1 stimulated actin binding of all spectrins except the brush border isoform (TW 260/240). These results suggested that the beta subunit determined the protein 4.1 sensitivity of the heterodimer, since all avian alpha subunits are encoded by a single gene. Tissue-specific posttranslational modification of the alpha subunit was excluded by examining the properties of hybrid spectrins composed of the purified alpha subunit from avian erythrocyte or brush border spectrin and the beta subunit of human erythrocyte spectrin. A hybrid composed of avian brush border alpha and human erythroid beta spectrin ran on nondenaturing gels as a discrete band, migrating near human erythroid spectrin tetramers. The actin-binding activity of this hybrid was stimulated by protein 4.1, while either chain alone was devoid of activity. Therefore, although both subunits were required for actin binding, the sensitivity of the spectrin-actin interaction to protein 4.1 is a property uniquely bestowed on the heterodimer by the beta subunit. The singular insensitivity of brush border spectrin to stimulation by erythroid protein 4.1 was also consistent with the absence of proteins in avian intestinal epithelial cells which were immunoreactive with polyclonal antisera sensitive to all of the known avian and human erythroid 4.1 isoforms.

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