The effect of vanadate on the ATP-induced disruption of trypsin-treated axonemes and the ATP-induced straightening of rigor wave preparations of sea urchin sperm was investigated. Addition of ATP to a suspension of trypsin-treated axonemes results in a rapid decrease in turbidity (optical density measured at 350 nm) concomitant with the disruption of the axonemes by sliding between microtubules to form tangles of connected doublet microtubules (Summers and Gibbons, 1971; Sale and Satir, 1977). For axonemes digested to approximately 93 percent of their initial turbidity, 5 {muM} vanadate completely inhibits the ATP-induced decrease in turbidity and the axonemes maintain their structural integrity. However, with axonemes digested to approximately 80 percent of their initial turbidity, vanadate fails to inhibit the ATP-induced decrease in turbidity and the ATP-induced structural disruption of axonemes, even when the vanadate concentration is raised as high as 100 μm. For such axonemes digested to 80 percent of their initial turbidity, the form of ATP-induced structural changes, in the presence of 25 μM vanadate, was observed by dark-field light microscopy and revealed that the axonemes become disrupted into curved, isolated doublet microtubules, small groups of doublet microtubules, and "banana peel" structures in which tubules have peeled back from the axoneme. Addition of 5 μM ATP to rigor wave sperm, which were prepared by abrupt removal of ATP from reactivated sperm, causes straightening of the rigor waves within 1 min, and addition of more than 10 μM ATP causes resumption of flagellar beating. Addition of 40 μM vanadate to the rigor wave sperm does not inhibit straightening of the rigor waves of 2 μM-1 mM ATP, although oscillatory beating is completely inhibited. These results suggest that vanadate inhibits the mechanochemical cycle of dyein at a step subsequent to the MgATP(2-)-induced release of the bridged dynein arms.

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