Chinese hamster pgpl P-glycoprotein (Pgp) is a membrane transport protein that causes multidrug resistance (MDR) by actively extruding a wide variety of cytotoxic agents out of cells. It may also function as a peptide transporter and as a chloride channel. Previously, we have shown that hamster pgpl Pgp is expressed in more than one topological form and that the generation of these structures is modulated by charged amino acids flanking the predicted transmembrane (TM) segments 3 and 4. Different topological structures of Pgp may be involved in different functions. In this study, we examined the role of cytoplasmic components in cell-free translation systems in modulating the topologies of Pgp. By using rabbit reticulocyte lysate (RRL) and wheat germ extract (WGE) expression systems, we showed that WGE contains a soluble, heat-labile, high molecular weight fraction that regulates the membrane topology of truncated Pgp molecules. These results and our previous findings indicate that the membrane topology of a mammalian polytopic membrane protein may be regulated both by the amino acid sequence of the protein and by soluble cytoplasmic component(s). We speculate that Pgp expressed in various cell types may have different topological structures modulated by specific cytoplasmic factors.
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