Southeast Asian ovalocytosis (SAO) human red cell membranes contain similar proportions of normal band 3 and a mutant band 3 with a nine amino acid deletion (band 3 SAO). We employed specific chemical modification and proteolytic cleavage to probe the structures of band 3 in normal and SAO membranes. When the membranes were modified specifically at lysine residues with N-hydroxysulfosuccinimide-SS-biotin, band 3 Lys-851 was not modified in normal membranes but quantitatively modified in SAO membranes. Normal and SAO membranes showed different patterns of band 3 proteolytic cleavage. Notably, many sites cleaved in normal membranes were not cleaved in SAO membranes, despite the presence of normal band 3 in these membranes. The mutant band 3 changes the structure of essentially all the normal band 3 present in the SAO membranes, and these changes extend throughout the normal band 3 molecules. The results also imply that band 3 in SAO membranes is present as hetero-tetramers or higher hetero-oligomers. The dominant structural effects of band 3 SAO on the other band 3 allele have important consequences on the functional and hematological properties of human red cells heterozygous for band 3 SAO. Analysis of the altered profile of biotinylation and protease cleavage sites suggests the location of exposed surfaces in the band 3 membrane domain and identifies likely interacting regions within the molecule. Our approach provides a sensitive method for studying structural changes in polytopic membrane proteins.
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