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Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 2008 Apr;65(4):295-313. doi: 10.1002/cm.20261.

Axoneme-dependent tubulin modifications in singlet microtubules of the Drosophila sperm tail.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA.


Drosophila melanogaster sperm tubulins are posttranslationally glutamylated and glycylated. We show here that axonemes are the substrate for these tubulin C-terminal modifications. Axoneme architecture is required, but full length, motile axonemes are not necessary. Tubulin glutamylation occurs during or shortly after assembly into the axoneme; only glutamylated tubulins are glycylated. Tubulins in other testis microtubules are not modified. Only a small subset of total Drosophila sperm axoneme tubulins have these modifications. Biochemical fractionation of Drosophila sperm showed that central pair and accessory microtubules have the majority of poly-modified tubulins, whereas doublet microtubules have only small amounts of mono- and oligo-modified tubulins. Glutamylation patterns for different beta-tubulins experimentally assembled into axonemes were consistent with utilization of modification sites corresponding to those identified in other organisms, but surrounding sequence context was also important. We compared tubulin modifications in the 9 + 9 + 2 insect sperm tail axonemes of Drosophila with the canonical 9 + 2 axonemes of sperm of the sea urchin Lytichinus pictus and the 9 + 0 motile sperm axonemes of the eel Anguilla japonica. In contrast to Drosophila sperm, L. pictus sperm have equivalent levels of modified tubulins in both doublet and central pair microtubule fractions, whereas the doublets of A. japonica sperm exhibit little glutamylation but extensive glycylation. Tubulin C-terminal modifications are a prevalent feature of motile axonemes, but there is no conserved pattern for placement or amount of these

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