Fertilization in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is initiated when gametes of opposite mating types adhere to each other via adhesion molecules (agglutinins) on their flagella. Adhesion leads to loss of active agglutinins from the flagella and recruitment of new agglutinins from a pool associated with the cell body. We have been interested in determining the precise cellular location of the pool and learning more about the relationship between agglutinins in the two domains. In the studies reported here we describe methods for purification of mt+ cell body agglutinins by use of ammonium sulfate precipitation, chromatography (molecular sieve, ion exchange, and hydrophobic interaction), and sucrose gradient centrifugation. About 90% of the total agglutinins were associated with the cell body and the remainder were on the flagella. Cell body agglutinins were indistinguishable from mt+ flagellar agglutinins by SDS-PAGE, elution properties on a hydrophobic interaction column, and in sedimentation properties on sucrose gradients. The nonadhesiveness of cell bodies suggested that the cell body agglutinins would be intracellular, but our results are not consistent with this interpretation. We have demonstrated that brief trypsin treatment of deflagellated gametes destroyed all of the cell body agglutinins and, in addition, we showed that the cell body agglutinins were accessible to surface iodination. These results indicated that C. reinhardtii agglutinins have a novel cellular disposition: active agglutinins, representing approximately 10% of the total cellular agglutinins, are found only on the flagella, whereas the remaining 90% of these molecules are on the external surface of the cell body plasma membrane in a nonfunctional form. This segregation of cell adhesion molecules into distinct membrane domains before gametic interactions has been demonstrated in sperm of multicellular organisms and may be a common mechanism for sequestering these critical molecules until gametes are activated for fusion. In experiments in which surface-iodinated cell bodies were permitted to regenerate new flagella, we found that the agglutinins (as well as the 350,000 Mr, major flagellar membrane protein) on the newly regenerated flagella were iodinated. These results indicate that proteins destined for the flagella can reside on the external surface of the cell body plasma membrane and are recruited onto newly forming flagella as well as onto preexisting flagella during fertilization.

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