Extracts of metabolically labeled cultured epithelial cells have been analyzed by immunoprecipitation followed by SDS-PAGE, using antisera to the major high molecular mass proteins and glycoproteins (greater than 100 kD) from desmosomes of bovine muzzle epidermis. For nonstratifying cells (Madin-Darby canine kidney [MDCK] and Madin-Darby bovine kidney), and A431 cells that have lost the ability to stratify through transformation, and a stratifying cell type (primary human keratinocytes) apparently similar polypeptides were immunoprecipitated with our antisera. These comprised three glycoproteins (DGI, DGII, and DGIII) and one major nonglycosylated protein (DPI). DPII, which has already been characterized by others in stratifying tissues, appeared to be absent or present in greatly reduced amounts in the nonstratifying cell types. The desmosome glycoproteins were further characterized in MDCK cells. Pulse-chase studies showed all three DGs were separate translation products. The two major glycoprotein families (DGI and DGII/III) were both found to be synthesized with co-translational addition of 2-4 high mannose cores later processed into complex type chains. However, they became endo-beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase H resistant at different times (DGII/III being slower). None of the DGs were found to have O-linked oligosaccharides unlike bovine muzzle DGI. Transport to the cell surface was rapid for all glycoproteins (60-120 min) as demonstrated by the rate at which they became sensitive to trypsin in intact cells. This also indicated that they were exposed at the outer cell surface. DGII/III, but not DGI, underwent a proteolytic processing step, losing 10 kD of carbohydrate-free peptide, during transport to the cell surface suggesting a possible regulatory mechanism in desmosome assembly.

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