Glucose trimming from newly synthesized glycoproteins regulates their interaction with the calnexin/calreticulin chaperone system. We have recently proposed that glucosidase II consisted of two different subunits, alpha and beta. The alpha subunit is the catalytic component, and deletion of its homologue in yeast obliterates glucosidase II activity. Deletion of the homologue of the noncatalytic beta subunit in Schizosaccharomices pombe drastically reduces glucosidase II activity, but the role of the beta subunit in glucosidase II activity has not been established. Furthermore, a direct interaction between alpha and beta subunits has not been demonstrated. Using chemical cross-linking and hydrodynamic analysis by analytical ultracentrifugation, we found that the two subunits form a defined complex, composed of one catalytic subunit and one accessory subunit (alpha(1)beta(1)) with a molecular mass of 161 kDa. The complex had an s value of 6.3 S, indicative of a highly nonglobular shape. The asymmetric shape of the alpha(1)beta(1) complex was confirmed by its high susceptibility to proteases. The beta subunit could be proteolytically removed from the alpha(1)beta(1) complex without affecting catalysis, demonstrating that it is not required for glucosidase II activity in vitro. Furthermore, we isolated a monomeric C-terminal fragment of the alpha subunit, which retained full glucosidase activity. We conclude that the catalytic core of glucosidase II resides in a globular domain of the alpha subunit, which can function independently of the beta subunit, while the complete alpha and beta subunits assemble in a defined heterodimeric complex with a highly extended conformation, which may favor interaction with other proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Through its C-terminal HDEL signal, the beta subunit may retain the complete alpha(1)beta(1) complex in the ER.
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