Basigin (Bsg) is a highly glycosylated transmembrane protein with two immunoglobulin (Ig)-like domains. A number of studies, including gene targeting, have demonstrated that Bsg plays pivotal roles in spermatogenesis, implantation, neural network formation and tumor progression. In the present study, to understand the mechanism of action of Bsg, we determined its expression status on the plasma membrane. Cotransfection of Bsg expression vectors with two different tags clarified that Bsg forms homo-oligomers in a cis-dependent manner on the plasma membrane. If the disulfide bond of the more N-terminally located Ig-like domain was destroyed by mutations, Bsg could not form oligomers. In contrast, the mutations of the C-terminal Ig- like domain or N-glycosylation sites did not affect the association. The association of mouse and human Bsgs, which exhibit high homology in the transmembrane and intracellular domains but low homology in the extracellular domain, was very weak as compared with that within the same species, suggesting the importance of the extracellular domain in the association. If the extracellular domain of the human Ret protein was replaced with the N- terminal Ig-like domain of Bsg, the resulting chimera protein was associated with intact wild-type Bsg, but not if the C-terminal Ig-like domain, instead of the N-terminal one, of Bsg was used. No oligomer formation took place between the intact wild-type Ret and Bsg proteins. In conclusion, these data indicate that the N-terminal Ig-like domain is necessary and sufficient for oligomer formation by Bsg on the plasma membrane.
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