Desmosomes are intercellular adhering junctions characteristic of epithelial cells. Several constitutive proteins--desmoplakin, plakoglobin and the transmembrane glycoproteins desmoglein and desmocollin--have been identified as fundamental constituents of desmosomes in all tissues. A number of additional and cell type-specific constituents also contribute to desmosomal plaque formation. Among these proteins is the band 6 polypeptide (B6P). This positively charged, non-glycosylated protein is a major constituent of the plaque in stratified and complex glandular epithelia. Using an overlay assay we show that purified keratins bind in vitro to B6P. Thus B6P may play a role in ordering intermediate filament networks of adjacent epithelial cells. To characterize the structure of B6P in the desmosome we have isolated cDNA clones representing the entire coding sequence. The predicted amino acid sequence of human B6P shows strong sequence homology with a murine p120 protein, which is a substrate of protein tyrosine kinase receptors and of p60v-src. P120 and B6P show amino-terminal domains differing distinctly in length and sequence. These are followed in both proteins by 460 residues that display a series of imperfect repeats corresponding to the repeats in the cadherin binding proteins armadillo, plakoglobin and beta-catenin. Over this repeat region B6P and p120 share 33% sequence identity (54% similarity). These sequence characteristics define B6P as a novel member of the armadillo multigene family and raise the question of whether the structural proteins B6P, plakoglobin, beta-catenin and armadillo share some function. Since armadillo, plakoglobin, beta-catenin and p120 seem involved in signal transduction this may also hold for B6P. The amino-terminal region of B6P (residues 1 to 263) shows no significant homology to any known protein sequence. It may therefore be involved in unique functions of B6P.

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