Extraction of doublet microtubules from the sperm flagella of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus with sarkosyl (0.5%)-urea (2.5 M) yields a highly pure preparation of "tektin" filaments that we have previously shown to resemble intermediate filament proteins. They form filaments 2-3 nm in diameter as seen by negative stain electron microscopy and are composed of approximately equal amounts of three polypeptide bands with apparent molecular weights of 47,000, 51,000, and 55,000, as determined by SDS PAGE. We prepared antibodies to this set of proteins to localize them in the doublet microtubules of S. purpuratus and other species. Tektins and tubulin were antigenically distinct when tested by immunoblotting with affinity-purified antitektin and antitubulin antibodies. Fixed sperm or axonemes from several different species of sea urchin showed immunofluorescent staining with antitektin antibodies. We also used antibodies coupled to gold spheres to localize the proteins by electron microscopy. Whereas a monoclonal antitubulin (Kilmartin, J.V., B. Wright, and C. Milstein, 1982, J. Cell Biol. 93:576-582) decorates intact microtubules along their lengths, antitektins labeled only the ends of intact microtubules and sarkosyl-insoluble ribbons. However, if microtubules and ribbons attached to electron microscope grids were first extracted with sarkosyl-urea, the tektin filaments that remain were decorated by antitektin antibodies throughout their length. These results suggest that tektins form integral filaments of flagellar microtubule walls, whose antigenic sites are normally masked, perhaps by the presence of tubulin around them.

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