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Biosystems. 1991;24(4):313-9.

Search for eukaryotic motility proteins in spirochetes: immunological detection of a tektin-like protein in Spirochaeta halophila.

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  • 1Department of Botany, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01003.


The serial endosymbiotic theory (SET) for the spirochete origin of undulipodia (cilia and eukaryotic flagella) predicts that a greater number of axonemal proteins will show homology to spirochete than to other bacterial proteins. To continue testing, the SET proteins associated with eukaryotic motility (tektin, centrin and calmodulin) were sought in Spirochaeta halophila. Western blot immunological detection techniques (for tektin and centrin) and two-dimensional gel analysis (for calmodulin) were used. Tektins are filamentous proteins extending the length of the axoneme in sperm tails and other undulipodia. Whole cell extracts of S. halophila were probed with antibodies made against three sea urchin (Lytechinus pictus) sperm axonemal tektins (tektins A, B, and C). In the spirochetes, one tektin-like protein was detected as a band on Western blots (a C tektin.) An antibody made against Lytechinus pictus sperm tail axonemes, affinity-purified against the C tektin of another sea urchin, Stronglyocentrotus purpuratus, bound to a 30 kDa protein from Spirochaeta halophila. The C tektin epitope was not detected in Escherichia coli. Both the poly- and monoclonal anti-centrin antibodies cross-reacted with multiple proteins in the control alga (Tetraselmis striata) and in the putatively negative control bacterium E. coli. No cross reaction was seen between any anti-centrin antibody and S. halophila. Neither did a two-dimensional gel analysis reveal the presence of calmodulin in these spirochetes or in the two other prokaryotes tested (Spiroplasma citri, Acholeplasma laidlawii). Although neither centrin nor calmodulin were detected, a 30 kDa tektin-like protein apparently is present in these spirochetes.

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