Tetrahymena ciliary membranes were prepared by four different techniques, and their protein composition was analyzed by sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), electron microscopy, and two-dimensional thin-layer peptide mapping. Extraction of the isolated cilia by nonionic detergent solubilized the ciliary membranes but left the axonemal microtubules and dyneine arms intact, as determined by quantitative electron microscopy. The proteins solubilized by detergent included a major 55,000-dalton protein, 1-3 high molecular weight proteins that comigrated, on SDS-PAGE, with the axonemal dynein, as well as several other proteins of 45,000-50,000 daltons. Each of the major proteins contained a small amount of carbohydrate, as determined by PAS-staining; no PAS-positive material was detected in the detergent-extracted axonemes. The major 55,000-dalton protein has proteins quite similar to those of tubulin, based on SDS-PAGE using three different buffer systems as well as two-dimensional maps of tryptic peptides from the isolated 55,000-dalton protein. To determine whether this tubulin-like protein was associated with the membrane or whether it was an axonemal or matrix protein released by detergent treatment, three different methods to isolate ciliary membrane vesicles were developed. The protein composition of each of these differetn vesicle preparations was the same as that of the detergent-solubilized material. These results suggest that a major ciliary membrane protein has properties similar to those of tubulin.