Two microtubule-stimulated ATPases, cytoplasmic dynein, and kinesin, are believed to be responsible for the intracellular movement of membrane-bound organelles in opposite directions along microtubules. An unresolved component of this model is the mechanism by which cells regulate these two motors to direct various membrane-bound organelles to their proper locations. To determine if phosphorylation may play a role in the regulation of cytoplasmic dynein, the in vivo phosphorylation state of cytoplasmic dynein from two cellular pools was examined. The entire cellular pool of brain cytoplasmic dynein was metabolically labeled by the infusion of [32P]orthophosphate into the cerebrospinal fluid of rat brain ventricles. To characterize the phosphorylation of dynein associated with anterograde membrane-bound organelles, the optic nerve fast axonal transport system was used. Using a monoclonal antibody to the 74-kD polypeptide of brain cytoplasmic dynein, the native dynein complex was immunoprecipitated from the radiolabled tissue extracts. Autoradiographs of one and two dimensional gels showed labeling of nearly all of the polypeptide isoforms of cytoplasmic dynein from rat brain. These polypeptides are phosphorylated on serine residues. Comparison of the amount of 32P incorporated into the dynein polypeptides revealed differences in the phosphorylation of dynein polypeptides from the anterograde and the cellular pools. Most interestingly, the 530-kD heavy chain of dynein appears to be phosphorylated to a lesser extent in the anterograde pool than in the cellular pool. Since the anterograde pool contains inactive dynein, while the entire cellular pool contains both inactive and active dynein, these results are consistent with the hypothesis that phosphorylation regulates the functional activity of cytoplasmic dynein.

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