The cytoplasmic domain of the cloned erythropoietin (EPO) receptor (EPOR) contains no protein kinase motif, yet addition of EPO to EPO-responsive cells causes an increase in protein-tyrosine phosphorylation. Here we show that addition of EPO or interleukin-3 (IL-3) to an IL-3-dependent cell line expressing the wild-type EPOR causes a small fraction (less than 5%) of total cellular EPOR to shift in gel mobility from 66 to 72 kDa, due at least in part to phosphorylation. Using biotinylated EPO as an affinity reagent, we show that the 72-kDa species is greatly enriched on the cell surface. To demonstrate that a protein kinase activity associates with cell surface EPOR, cells were incubated with biotinylated EPO and then cross-linked with a thiol-cleavable chemical cross-linker. The avidin-agarose-selected complexes were incubated with [γ-32P]ATP. After in vitro phosphorylation and denaturation without reducing agent, both antiphosphotyrosine and anti-EPOR antibodies immunoprecipitated labeled 72-kDa EPOR and an unidentified 130-kDa phosphoprotein (pp130), indicating that a protein kinase is associated with cell surface EPOR and that a fraction of the EPOR was phosphorylated on tyrosine residues either in the cells or during the cell-free phosphorylation reaction. Under reducing conditions, the 72-kDa phosphorylated EPOR but not pp130 was immunoprecipitated with an anti-EPOR antibody, suggesting that the pp130 is bound to the EPOR by the thiol-cleavable chemical cross-linker. Previously, we showed that deletion of the 42 carboxy-terminal amino acids of the EPOR allows cells to grow in 1/10 the normal EPO concentration, without affecting receptor number or affinity. Two carboxy-terminal truncated EPO receptors that are hyperresponsive to EPO were poorly phosphorylated during the in vitro reaction, suggesting that the carboxy-terminal region of the EPOR contains a site for phosphorylation or a site for interaction with a protein kinase. Our data suggests that phosphorylation or interaction with a protein kinase in the carboxy-terminal region may down-modulate the proliferative action of the EPOR.
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