In this paper we describe a 66-kD protein that co-purifies with intermediate filaments from rat optic nerve and spinal cord but can be separated further by ion-exchange chromatography. This protein is distinct from the 68-kD neurofilament subunit protein as judged by isoelectric focusing, immunoblotting, peptide mapping, and tests of polymerization competence. This protein is avidly recognized by the monoclonal anti-intermediate filament antigen antibody, previously demonstrated to recognize a common antigenic determinant in all five known classes of intermediate filaments. Also, when isolated this protein binds to various intermediate filament subunit proteins, which suggests an in vivo interaction with the intermediate filament cytoskeleton, and it appears to be axonally transported in the rat optic nerve. Because of this ability to bind to intermediate filaments in situ and in vitro we have named this protein alpha-internexin. A possible functional role for the protein in organizing filament assembly and distribution is discussed.

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