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Zinc Ions Stabilise the Association of Basic Protein with Brain Myelin Membranes


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. P. Glynn at Multiple Sclerosis Society Laboratory, Department of Neurochemistry, Institute of Neurology, 1 Wakefield Street, London WC1N 1PJ, U.K.


Abstract: Myelin basic protein (MBP) dissociated from brain myelin membranes when they were incubated (37°C; pH 7.4) at physiological ionic strength. Zinc ions inhibited, and calcium promoted, this process. Protease activity in the membrane preparations cleaved the dissociated MBP into both small (<4 kilodaltons) and large (>8 kilodaltons) fragments. The latter were detected, together with intact MBP, by gel electrophoresis of incubation media. Zinc ions appeared to act in two distinct processes. In the presence or absence of added CaC12, zinc ions in the range 0.1–1 mM inhibited MBP-membrane dissociation. This process was relatively insensitive to heat and Zn2+ could be substituted by either copper (II) or cobalt (II) ions. A second effect was evident only in the presence of added calcium ions, when lower concentrations of Zn2+ (<0.1 mM) inhibited MBP-membrane dissociation and the accumulation of intact MBP in incubation media. This process was heat sensitive and only copper (II), but not cobalt (II), ions could replace Zn2+. To determine whether endogenous zinc in myelin membranes is bound to MBP, preparations were solubilised in buffers containing Triton X-100/2 mM CaCl2 and subjected to gel filtration. Endogenous zinc, as indicated by a dithizone-binding method, eluted with fractions containing both MBP and proteolipid protein (PLP). Thus, one means whereby zinc stabilises association of MBP with brain myelin membranes may be by promoting its binding to PLP.