The basal apparatus, consisting of an array of interconnected basal bodies bearing bifurcating striated rootlets encompassing a nucleus, has been isolated from hypertonically deciliated columnar gill epithelial cells of the bay scallop Aequipecten irradians through gentle lysis with Triton X-100. The rootlets, 8-10 mum in length, were not easily preserved with conventional electron microscope fixatives, suggesting that the extent of their contribution to cellular architecture has been somewhat underestimated, even though Englemann described many of the structural details of the basal apparatus in 1880. The striated rootlets were soluble at high but not at low pH, in 2 M solutions of sodium azide and potassium thiocyanate but not sodium or potassium chloride, in 1% deoxycholate but not digitonin, and in the denaturing solvents 6 M guanidine-HC1, 8 M urea, and 1% sodium dodecylsulfate at 100 degrees C. The protein found consistently when rootlets were solubilized migrated on SDS-polyacrylamide gels as a closely spaced doublet with apparent molecular weights of 230,000 and 250,000 daltons. This unique protein, distinct from tropocollagen or various muscle components, has been named ankyrin because of the rootlet's anchor-like function in the cell.

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