Using the squid giant axon, we analyzed biochemically the molecular organization of the axonal cytoskeleton underlying the axolemma (subaxolemmal cytoskeleton). The preparation enriched in the subaxolemmal cytoskeleton was obtained by squeezing out the central part of the axoplasm using a roller. The electrophoretic banding pattern of the subaxolemmal cytoskeleton was characterized by large amounts of two high-molecular-weight (HMW) proteins (260 and 255 kD). The alpha, beta-tubulin, actin, and some other proteins were also its major constituents. The 260-kD protein is known to play an important role in maintaining the excitability of the axolemma (Matsumoto, G., M. Ichikawa, A. Tasaki, H. Murofushi, and H. Sakai, 1983, J. Membr. Biol., 77:77-91) and was recently designated "axolinin" (Sakai, H., G. Matsumoto, and H. Murofushi, 1985, Adv. Biophys., 19:43-89). We purified axolinin and the 255-kD protein in their native forms and further characterized their biochemical properties. The purified axolinin was soluble in 0.6 M NaCl solution but insoluble in 0.1 M NaCl solution. It co-sedimented with microtubules but not with actin filaments. In low-angle rotary-shadowing electron microscopy, the axolinin molecule in 0.6 M NaCl solution looked like a straight rod approximately 105 nm in length with a globular head at one end. On the other hand, the purified 255-kD protein was soluble in both 0.1 and 0.6 M NaCl solution and co-sedimented with actin filaments but not with microtubules. The 255-kD protein molecule appeared as a characteristic horseshoe-shaped structure approximately 35 nm in diameter. Furthermore, the 255-kD protein showed no cross-reactivity to the anti-axolinin antibody. Taken together, these characteristics lead us to conclude that the subaxolemmal cytoskeleton in the squid giant axon is highly specialized, and is mainly composed of microtubules and a microtubule-associated HMW protein (axolinin), and actin filaments and an actin filament-associated HMW protein (255-kD protein).

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