From Tetrahymena macronuclei we have isolated a reversibly contractile nucleo-skeleton, i.e., an "expanded" nuclear matrix which reversibly contracts when the total concentration of the bivalent cations, Ca and Mg (3:2), is decreased to 5 mM or increased to 125 mM. During contraction the average diameter of the expanded matrix becomes reduced by about 24%; this corresponds to a volume contraction of about 55%. The reversible contraction of the nuclear matrix does not depend on ATP and cannot be inhibited by salygran. The expanded matrix is obtained by removing carefully from the macronuclei 89.7% of the phospholipid, 99.6% of the DNA, 98.5% of the RNA, and 74.8% of the protein by treatment with Triton X-100 and digestion with DNase and RNase followed by an extraction with 2 M NaCl. Electron microscopy reveals, within the expanded matrix, residual equivalents to the structures characteristic for macronuclei: (a) a residual nuclear envelope with nuclear pore complexes; (b) residual nucleoli at the periphery; (c) a fibrillar internal network. The expanded matrix is essentially composed of proteins (96.2%) and traces of DNA (0.8%), RNA (0.5%), phospholipid (1.6%), and carbohydrates (0.9%). The last, which have been determined by gas chromatography, contain glucose, mannose, and an unidentified sugar in the ratio 1:5.4:5.7. The ratio of acidic to basic amino acids of the expanded matrix is 1.55. Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) gel electrophoresis reveals a predominant protein with a mol wt of 18,000 which is apparently involved in the reversible contractile process. The mechanism of this reversible contraction of the expanded matrix remains to be elucidated, but it differs both from actin-myosin contraction systems and from the contractile spasmoneme system in vorticellids.

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