In the accompanying paper (Gu, W., S. A. Lewis, and N. J. Cowan. 1988. J. Cell Biol. 106: 2011-2022), we report the generation of three antisera, each of which uniquely recognizes a different mammalian alpha-tubulin isotype, plus a fourth antibody that distinguishes between microtubules containing the tyrosinated and nontyrosinated form of the only known mammalian alpha-tubulin gene product that lacks an encoded carboxy-terminal tyrosine residue. These sera, together with five sera we raised that distinguish among the known mammalian beta-tubulin isotypes, have been used to study patterns of tubulin isotype-specific expression in muscle and testis, two tissues in which characteristic developmental changes are accompanied by dramatic rearrangements in microtubule structures. As in the case of cells in culture, there is no evidence to suggest that there is subcellular sorting of different tubulin isotypes among different kinds of microtubule, even in a cell type (the developing spermatid) that simultaneously contains such functionally distinct structures as the manchette and the flagellum. On the other hand, the patterns of expression of the various tubulin isotypes show marked and distinctive differences in different cell types and, in at least one case, evidence is presented for regulation at the translational or posttranslational level. The significance of these observations is discussed in terms of the existence of the mammalian alpha- and beta-tubulin multigene families.

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