The hydrophobic, membrane-binding domain of purified human erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase was labeled with the photoactivated reagent 3-(trifluoromethyl)-3-(m-[125I]iodophenyl)diazirine. The radiolabel was incorporated when the enzyme was prepared in detergent-free aggregates, in detergent micelles, or in phospholipid liposomes, but the highest percentage of labeling occurred in the detergent-free aggregates. Papain digestion of the enzyme released the hydrophobic domain, and polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in sodium dodecyl sulfate or gel exclusion chromatography demonstrated that the label was localized exclusively in the cleaved hydrophobic domain fragment. This fragment was purified in a three-step procedure. Digestion was conducted with papain attached to Sepharose CL-4B, and the supernatant was adsorbed to acridinium affinity resin to remove the hydrophilic enzyme fragment. The nonretained fragment associated with Triton X-100 micelles was then chromatographed on Sepharose CL-6B, and finally detergent was removed by chromatography on Sephadex LH-60 in an ethanol-formic acid solvent. The fragment exhibited an apparent molecular weight of 3100 on the Sephadex LH-60 column when compared with peptide standards. However, amino acid analysis of the purified fragment revealed only 1 mol each of histidine and glycine per mole of fragment in contrast to the 25–30 mol of amino acids expected on the basis of the molecular weight estimate. This result suggests a novel non-amino acid structure for the hydrophobic domain of human erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase.
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