Nerve extracts containing tubulin labeled by axonal transport were analyzed by electrophoresis and differential extraction. We found that a substantial fraction of the tubulin in the axons of the retinal ganglion cell of guinea pigs is not solubilized by conventional methods for preparation of microtubules from whole brain. In two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis this cold-insoluble tubulin was biochemically distinct from tubulin obtained from whole brain microtubules prepared by cold cycling. Cleveland peptide maps also indicated some differences between the cold-extractable and cold-insoluble tubulins. The demonstration of cold-insoluble tubulin that is specifically axonal in origin permits consideration of the physiological role of cold-insoluble tubulin in a specific cellular structure. It appears likely that much of this material is in the form of cold-stable microtubules. We propose that the physiological role of cold-insoluble tubulin in the axon may be associated with the regulation of the axonal microtubule complexes in neurons.

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