Cytoplasmic microtubule-based motility in Paramecium was investigated using video-enhanced contrast microscopy, the quick-freeze, deep-etch technique, and biochemical isolations. Three distinct vesicle populations were found to be transported unidirectionally along the cytopharyngeal microtubular ribbons. This minus-end-directed movement exhibited unique in vivo features in that the vesicle transport was nonsaltatory, rapid, and predominantly along one side of the microtubular ribbons. To identify candidate motor proteins which may participate in vesicle transport, we prepared cytosolic extracts of Paramecium and used bovine brain microtubules as an affinity matrix. These preparations were found to contain a microtubule-stimulated ATPase which supported microtubule gliding in vitro. This protein was verified as a cytoplasmic dynein based upon its relative molecular mass, sedimentation coefficient of 16S, susceptibility to vanadate photocleavage, elevated CTPase/ATPase ratio, and its typical two-headed dynein morphology. This dynein was directly compared with the axonemal dyneins from Paramecium and found to differ by five criteria: morphology, sedimentation coefficient, CTPase/ATPase ratio, vanadate cleavage patterns, and polypeptide composition. The cytoplasmic dynein is therefore not an axonemal dynein precursor, but rather it represents a candidate for supporting the microtubule-based vesicle transport which proceeds along the microtubular ribbons.

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