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Genome Biol. 2008;9(7):229. doi: 10.1186/gb-2008-9-7-229. Epub 2008 Jul 29.

The tektin family of microtubule-stabilizing proteins.

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  • MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 0QH, UK. laa@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk


Tektins are insoluble alpha-helical proteins essential for the construction of cilia and flagella and are found throughout the eukaryotes apart from higher plants. Being almost universal but still fairly free to mutate, their coding sequences have proved useful for estimating the evolutionary relationships between closely related species. Their protein molecular structure, typically consisting of four coiled-coil rod segments connected by linkers, resembles that of intermediate filament (IF) proteins and lamins. Tektins assemble into continuous rods 2 nm in diameter that are probably equivalent to subfilaments of the 10 nm diameter IFs. Tektin and IF rod sequences both have a repeating pattern of charged amino acids superimposed on the seven-amino-acid hydrophobic pattern of coiled-coil proteins. The length of the repeat segment matches that of tubulin subunits, suggesting that tektins and tubulins may have coevolved, and that lamins and IFs may have emerged later as modified forms of tektin. Unlike IFs, tektin sequences include one copy of a conserved peptide of nine amino acids that may bind tubulin. The 2 nm filaments associate closely with tubulin in doublet and triplet microtubules of axonemes and centrioles, respectively, and help to stabilize these structures. Their supply restricts the assembled lengths of cilia and flagella. In doublet microtubules, the 2 nm filaments may also help to organize the longitudinal spacing of accessory structures, such as groups of inner dynein arms and radial spokes.

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