We recently demonstrated that addition of the divalent cation Mg++ to demembranated cilia causes the dynein arms to attach uniformly to the B subfibers. We have now studied the dose-dependent relationship between Mg++ or Ca++ and dynein bridging frequencies and microtubule sliding in cilia isolated from Tetrahymena. Both cations promote efficient dynein bridging. Mg++-induced bridges become saturated at 3 mM while Ca++-induced bridges become saturated at 2 mM. Double reciprocal plots of percent bridging vs. the cation concentration (0.05-10 mM) suggest that bridging occurs in simple equilibrium with the cation concentration. When microtubule sliding (spontaneous disintegration in 40 mM N-2-hydroxyethylpiperazine-N'-2-ethane sulfonic acid (HEPES), 0.1 mM ATP at pH 7.4) is assayed (A350 nm) relative to the Mg++ or Ca++ concentration, important differential effects are observed. 100% Disintegration occurs in 0.5-2 mM Mg++ and the addition of 10 mM Mg++ does not inhibit the response. The addition of 0.05-10 mM Ca++ to cilia reactivated with 0.1 mM ATP causes a substantial reduction in disintegration at low Ca++ concentrations and complete inhibition at concentrations greater than 3 mM. When Ca++ is added to cilia reactivated with 2 mM Mg++ and 0.1 mM ATP, the percent disintegration decreases progressively with the increasing Ca++ concentration. The addition of variable concentrations of Co++ to Mg++-activated cilia causes a similar but more effective inhibition of the disintegration response. These observations, when coupled with the relatively high concentrations of Ca++ or Co++ needed to inhibit disintegration, suggest that inhibition results from simple competition for the relevant cation-binding sites and thus may not be physiologically significant. The data do not yet reveal an interpretable relationship between percent disintegration, percent dynein bridging, and percent ATPase activity of both isolated dynein and whole cilia. However, they do illustrate that considerable (sliding) disintegration (60%) can occur under conditions that reveal only 10-15% attached dynein cross bridges.

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