60% of the peripheral membrane skeleton of Euglena gracilis consists of equimolar amounts of two proteins (articulins) with M(r)s in SDS gels of 80 and 86 kD. To understand eventually how these proteins assemble and function in maintaining cell form and membrane integrity we have undertaken a molecular characterization of articulins. A lambda gt11 expression library constructed from Euglena gracilis mRNAs was screened with antibodies against both articulins. Two sets of cDNAs were recovered, and evidence from three independent assays confirmed that both sets encoded articulins: (a) Anti-articulin antibodies recognized a high molecular weight beta-galactosidase (beta-gal) fusion protein expressed in bacteria infected with lambda gt11 cDNA clones. (b) Antibodies generated against the bacterially expressed beta-gal fusion protein identified one or the other articulin in Western blots of Euglena proteins. These antibodies also localized to the membrane skeletal region in thin sections of Euglena. (c) Peptide maps of the beta-gal fusion protein were similar to peptide maps of Euglena articulins. From the nucleotide sequence of the two sets of cDNAs an open reading frame for each articulin was deduced. In addition to 37% amino acid identity and overall structural similarity, both articulins exhibited a long core domain consisting of over 30 12-amino acid repeats with the consensus VPVPV--V--. Homology plots comparing the same or different articulins revealed larger, less regular repeats in the core domain that coincided with predicted turns in extended beta-sheets. Outside the core domain a short hydrophobic region containing four seven-amino acid repeats (consensus: APVTYGA) was identified near the carboxy terminus of the 80-kD articulin, but near the amino terminus of the 86-kD articulin. No extensive sequence similarities were found between articulins and other protein sequences in various databanks. We conclude that the two articulins are related members of a new class of membrane cytoskeletal proteins.

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