Chicken lamin B2, a nuclear member of the intermediate-type filament (IF) protein family, was expressed as a full-length protein in Escherichia coli. After purification, its structure and assembly properties were explored by EM, using both glycerol spraying/low-angle rotary metal shadowing and negative staining for preparation, as well as by analytical ultracentrifugation. At its first level of structural organization, lamin B2 formed "myosin-like" 3.1S dimers consisting of a 52-nm-long tail flanked at one end by two globular heads. These myosin-like molecules are interpreted to represent two lamin polypeptides interacting via their 45-kD central rod domains to form a segmented, parallel and unstaggered 52-nm-long two-stranded alpha-helical coiled-coil, and their COOH-terminal end domains folding into globular heads. At the second level of organization, lamin B2 dimers associated longitudinally to form polar head-to-tail polymers. This longitudinal mode of association of laminin dimers is in striking contrast to the lateral mode of association observed previously for cytoplasmic IF dimers. At the third level of organization, these polar head-to-tail polymers further associated laterally, in an approximately half-staggered fashion, to form filamentous and eventually paracrystal-like structures revealing a pronounced 24.5-nm axial repeat. Finally, following up on recent studies implicating the mitotic cdc2 kinase in the control of lamin polymerization (Peter, M., J. Nakagawa, M. Dorée, J. C. Labbé, and E. A. Nigg. 1990. Cell. 61:591-602), we have examined the effect of phosphorylation by purified cdc2 kinase on the assembly properties and molecular interactions of the bacterially expressed lamin B2. Phosphorylation of chicken lamin B2 by cdc2 kinase interferes with the head-to-tail polymerization of the lamin dimers. This finding supports the notion that cdc2 kinase plays a major, direct role in triggering mitotic disassembly of the nuclear lamina.

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