To assay the functional significance of the multiple but closely related alpha-tubulin polypeptides that are expressed in mammalian cells, we generated three specific immune sera, each of which uniquely recognizes a distinct alpha-tubulin isotype. All three isotypes are expressed in a tissue-restricted manner: one (M alpha 3/7) only in mature testis, one (M alpha 4) mainly in muscle and brain, and the third (M alpha 6) in several tissues at a very low level. A fourth specific antiserum was also generated that distinguishes between the tyrosinated and nontyrosinated form of a single alpha-tubulin isotype. Because individual tubulin isotypes cannot be purified biochemically, these sera were raised using cloned fusion proteins purified from host Escherichia coli cells. To suppress the immune response to shared epitopes, animals were first rendered tolerant to fusion proteins encoding all but one of the known mammalian alpha-tubulin isotypes. Subsequent challenge with the remaining fusion protein then resulted in the elicitation of an immune response to unique epitopes. Three criteria were used to establish the specificity of the resulting sera: (a) their ability to discriminate among cloned fusion proteins representing all the known mammalian alpha-tubulin isotypes; (b) their ability to uniquely detect alpha-tubulin in whole extracts of tissues; and (c) their capacity to stain microtubules in fixed preparations of cells transfected with sequences encoding the corresponding isotype. The transfection experiments served to demonstrate (a) the coassembly of M alpha 3/7, M alpha 4, and M alpha 6 into both interphase and spindle microtubules in HeLa cells and NIH 3T3 cells, and (b) that the M alpha 4 isotype, which is unique among mammalian alpha-tubulins in that it lacks an encoded carboxy-terminal tyrosine residue, behaves like other alpha-tubulin isotypes with respect to the cycle of tyrosination/detyrosination that occurs in most cultured cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.