The major B cell Ag receptors, membrane (m) IgM and mIgD, are noncovalently associated with disulfide-linked heterodimers of alpha, beta, and gamma glycoproteins. The beta and gamma chains have apparent molecular masses of 37 and 34 kDa, respectively, and are associated with both mIgM and mIgD. Receptor alpha chains, however, exhibit Ig isotype specificity. IgM-alpha and IgD-alpha have apparent molecular masses of 32 and 33 kDa, respectively. Recently, the alpha chain of the IgM Ag receptor complex was identified as the product of the mb-1 gene, and the beta and gamma chains were characterized as products of the B29 gene. The failure of mb-1 cDNA to hybridize with mRNA from J558 delta m2.6 plasmacytomas expressing surface mIgD in association with IgD-alpha has led to the conclusion that IgM-alpha and IgD-alpha are not closely related. In this report we have used protein biochemical methods to characterize differences in the mIgM- and mIgD-associated alpha chains. In addition to a slightly greater apparent m.w., IgD-alpha was slightly more acidic than IgM-alpha. The alpha chains had nearly identical proteolytic peptide maps, and were also noted to have multiple loci of identity with MB-1 based on amino terminal sequencing and immunoblotting. In an attempt to determine whether the alpha chains differed as a result of differential posttranslational modification, they were compared after deglycosylation with N-glycanase. The results indicate that the apparent m.w. as well as isoelectric point differences are primarily due to differential N-linked glycosylation. These studies indicate that IgM-alpha and IgD-alpha are products of the mb-1 gene or closely related genes.

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