The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans should be an excellent model system in which to study the role of microtubules in mitosis, embryogenesis, morphogenesis, and nerve function. It may be studied by the use of biochemical, genetic, molecular biological, and cell biological approaches. We have purified microtubules and microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) from C. elegans by the use of the anti-tumor drug taxol (Vallee, R. B., 1982, J. Cell Biol., 92:435-44). Approximately 0.2 mg of microtubules and 0.03 mg of MAPs were isolated from each gram of C. elegans. The C. elegans microtubules were smaller in diameter than bovine microtubules assembled in vitro in the same buffer. They contained primarily 9-11 protofilaments, while the bovine microtubules contained 13 protofilaments. The principal MAP had an apparent molecular weight of 32,000 and the minor MAPs were 30,000, 45,000, 47,000, 50,000, 57,000, and 100,000-110,000 mol wt as determined by SDS-gel electrophoresis. The microtubules were observed, by electron microscopy of negatively stained preparations, to be connected by stretches of highly periodic cross-links. The cross-links connected the adjacent protofilaments of aligned microtubules, and occurred at a frequency of one cross-link every 7.7 +/- 0.9 nm, or one cross-link per tubulin dimer along the protofilament. The cross-links were removed when the MAPs were extracted from the microtubules with 0.4 M NaCl. The cross-links then re-formed when the microtubules and the MAPs were recombined in a low salt buffer. These results strongly suggest that the cross-links are composed of MAPs.

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