During axonal transport, membranes travel down axons at a rapid rate, whereas the cytoskeletal elements travel in either of two slow components, SCa (with tubulin and neurofilament protein) and SCb (with actin). Clathrin, the highly ordered, structural coat protein of coated vesicles, has recently been shown to be able to interact in vitro with cytoskeletal proteins in addition to membranes. The present study examines whether clathrin travels preferentially with the membrane elements or the cytoskeletal elements when it is axonally transported. Guinea pig visual system was labeled with tritiated amino acids. Radioactive SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis profiles from the major components of transport were coelectrophoresed with clathrin. Only SCb had a band comigrating with clathrin. In addition, radioactive clathrin was purified from guinea pig brain containing only radioactive SCb polypeptides. Kinetic analysis of the putative clathrin band in SCb revealed that it travels entirely within the SCb wave. Thus we conclude that clathrin travels preferentially with the cytoskeletal proteins making up SCb, rather than with the membranes and membrane-associated proteins in the fast component.

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