A recessive male sterile mutation (B2t8) that encodes a stable variant of the testis-specific beta 2-tubulin of Drosophila causes the assembly of aberrant microtubules both in vivo and in vitro. The B2t8 mutation appears to cause defects in the formation of interprotofilament bonds. In testes from homozygous mutant males, the most commonly observed aberrant structures were sheets of protofilaments curved to form an S in cross section rather than a normal, closed microtubule. These characteristic S-shaped structures appear in the meiotic spindle, in place of axonemes in differentiating spermatids, and in cytoplasmic microtubules, including those that lie next to the nucleus during nuclear elongation. Homozygous mutant males exhibit defects in chromosome movement and cytokinesis during meiosis, flagellar elongation, and nuclear shaping, indicating that the ability to form normal closed microtubules is required for each of these events. The presence of the aberrant microtubules in three architecturally different microtubule arrays demonstrates conclusively the multifunctional nature of the beta 2-tubulin gene product. Although the mutant beta 2-tubulin subunit causes assembly of aberrant microtubules in vitro and in homozygous males, in the presence of wild-type beta 2-tubulin in heterozygous males, the variant subunit coassembles with the wild-type subunit into functional sperm.

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