Isolated intact rat adipocytes were photoaffinity labeled with radioactive and photoreactive NαB1-monoazi-dobenzoyl insulin (B1-MABI) or NεB29-monoazidobenzoyl insulin (B29-MABI). Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of the labeled plasma membranes solubilized in sodium dodecyl sulfate revealed the specific labeling of three receptor species of 380 kDa, 300 kDa, and 230 kDa. Reduction of each species individually produced the subunits of 130 kDa, 90 kDa, and 40 kDa. Exposure of the adipocytes or plasma membranes after photola-beling to sulfhydryl alkylating agents such as N-ethyl-maleimide or p-chloromercuriphenylsulfonate resulted in the appearance of the receptor quantitatively in the 380-kDa form. The effect of the sulfhydryl reagent was concentration dependent and in the case of p-chloromercuriphenylsulfonate the three receptor species reappeared when high concentrations of the reagent were used. Incubation of the adipocytes with low concentrations of dithiothreitol before photolabeling reduced these receptors to discrete lower-molecular-weight forms. In addition, an 85-kDa subunit was now photolabeled by B1-MABI. This subunit was demonstrated to be different from the 90-kDa subunit normally labeled by B29-MABI. We conclude that on the cell surface of the adipocyte, there is ope molecular-weight form of insulin receptor of 380 kDa composed of one 130-kDa, one 90-kDa, one 85-kDa, and two 40-kDa subunits. The 300 kDa and 230 kDa are partially reduced forms of the 380-kDa species. We further postulate that a membrane factor or factors sensitive to sulfhydryl alkylating reagents may be involved in the partial reduction and oxidation of these three redox receptor species. The distribution of these redox receptor species may be related to the cellular or tissue sensitivity to insulin.

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