Chlamydomonas flagellar sexual agglutinins are responsible for the adhesion of opposite mating-type (plus and minus) gametes during the first stages of mating. Purification and partial characterization of the plus agglutinin was previously reported (Adair, W. S., C. J. Hwang, and U. W. Goodenough, 1983, Cell, 33:183-193). Here we characterize the purified minus molecule. We show it to be a high molecular weight, hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein that migrates in the 3% stacking region of an SDS-polyacrylamide gel and is absent from two nonagglutinating minus mutants. Plus and minus agglutinins are remarkably similar, although nonidentical, in amino acid composition, molecular morphology, and reactivity in vivo and in vitro with monoclonal antibodies raised against the plus agglutinin. Moreover, the adhesiveness of both plus and minus agglutinins, when coupled to agarose beads, is abolished by thermolysin, trypsin, periodate, alkaline borohydride, reducing agents, or heat, but unaffected by exo- or endoglycosidases. The minus agglutinin, however, migrates just ahead of the plus molecule on SDS PAGE, is excluded from an anion-exchange (Mono Q) column, elutes earlier during hydrophobic interaction (Bio-gel TSK Phenyl 5PW) chromatography, and is sensitive to chymotrypsin digestion (unlike the plus agglutinin); therefore, it differs from the plus agglutinin in apparent molecular weight, net charge, relative hydrophobicity and proteolytic susceptibility. Nevertheless, our results generally demonstrate a high degree of homology between these complementary cell-cell recognition/adhesion molecules, which suggests that they are specified by genes that have a common evolutionary origin.

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