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J Cell Sci. 1982 Dec;58:1-22.

Structure and chemical composition of insoluble filamentous components of sperm flagellar microtubules.


By progressive solvent extraction, we have obtained a series of subfragments of flagellar microtubules. Mild treatment gives rise to ribbons that contain longitudinally arranged protofilaments. Further extraction leaves a distinctive residue containing thinner ribbons, of three and eventually two protofilaments. Finally, filaments 2-3 nm in diameter and fibrous ribbons apparently containing 6 or more 2 nm subfibrils are found. This latter solvent-resistant material is consistently enriched in a characteristic set of polypeptides, which are found in flagella of several different species, including echinoderms and a mollusc. These polypeptides appear different from alpha- and beta-tubulin on the basis of their solubilities, isoelectric points and electrophoretic mobilities in sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide gels; these conclusions are reinforced by peptide mapping after limited proteolytic digestion, although the latter method reveals certain similarities between these unique flagellar proteins, tubulin, chicken gizzard desmin and rabbit actin. A remarkable feature of the protein in the final fraction is the high alpha-helical content: 71% as measured by circular dichroism. We consider the possible origins of these filaments in the microtubule, in particular the possibility that microtubule protofilaments are heterogeneous in protein composition, and we discuss some of the implications of our findings.

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