The marginal band of nucleated erythrocytes is a microtubule organelle under rigorous quantitative and spatial control, with properties quite different from those of the microtubule organelles of cultured cells. Previous results suggest that proteins other than tubulin may participate in organizing the marginal band, and may interact with elements of the erythrocyte cytoskeleton in addition to microtubules. To identify such species, we raised mAbs against the proteins that assemble from chicken brain homogenates with tubulin. One such antibody binds to a single protein in chicken erythrocytes, and produces an immunofluorescence pattern colocalizing with marginal band microtubules. Several properties of this protein are identical to those of ezrin, a protein isolated from brush border and localized to motile elements of cultured cells. A significant proportion of the antigen is not soluble in erythrocytes, as determined by extraction with nonionic detergent. This cytoskeleton-associated fraction is unaffected by treatments that solubilize the marginal band microtubules. The protein has properties of both microtubule- and microfilament-associated proteins. In the accompanying manuscript (Goslin, K., E. Birgbauer, G. Banker, and F. Solomon. 1989. J. Cell Biol. 109:1621-1631), we show that the same antibody recognizes a component of growth cones with a similar dual nature. In early embryonic red blood cells, the antigen is dispersed throughout the cell and does not colocalize with assembled tubulin. Its confinement to the marginal band during development follows rather than precedes that of microtubules. These results, along with previous work, suggest models for the formation of the marginal band.

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