Fractionation by velocity sedimentation of Torpedo nicotinic post-synaptic membranes

Arco Y. Jeng, Paul A. St. John, Jonathan B. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Velocity sedimentation on sucrose gradients containing Torpedo physiological saline has been utilized to fractionate Torpedo (Torpedo californica and T. nobiliana) post-synaptic membranes isolated initially on the basis of their density by equilibrium centrifugation. Membranes are separated into two populations: (1) those retained within the gradient (referred to as gradient pool); and (2) membranes sedimenting rapidly through the gradient (referred to as f 22, fraction 22 of the gradient). Comparison of their polypeptide compositions by sodium dodecyl sulfate/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis indicates that the gradient pool consists of highly purified nicotinic post-synaptic membranes containing the peptides of the acetylcholine receptor and a peptide of Mr 43 000, while f 22 contains the contaminating membranes present in the initial suspension as well as a small fraction of the nicotinic post-synaptic membranes. On the basis of the kinetics of efflux of 22Na+ from the membrane fractions, it is concluded that the gradient pool contains most of the sealed vesicles with functional nicotinic receptors. The internal volume (μl/mg protein) of those membranes exceeds that of f 22 by a factor of 4, and greater than 85% of that internal volume is equilibrated by the nicotinic agonist carbamylcholine, while for f 22 only 40% is equilibrated. Thin-section electron microscopy has been used to estimate the distribution of vesicle sizes. The observed distribution for the gradient pool indicates that these vesicles are a size homogeneous population of diameter 0.3 μm, while f 22 contains a number of smaller and larger vesicles. Torpedo post-synaptic membranes have been treated with alkali to remove the non-receptor peptide of Mr 43 000. After alkaline extraction, velocity sedimentation permits the isolation of a population of size-homogeneous and well-sealed vesicles containing only the peptides of the nicotinic receptor. It is concluded that upon homogenization, the innervated surface of the Torpedo electroplax tends to form vesicles of uniform size (0.3 μm) which can be readily isolated by velocity sedimentation and that the peptide of Mr 43 000 is not required for the maintenance of bilayer structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-421
Number of pages11
JournalBBA - Biomembranes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 7 1981


  • (Torpedo electric organ)
  • Membrane fractionation
  • Na flux
  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor
  • Receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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