NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Tubulinlike protein from Spirochaeta bajacaliforniensisTubulin proteins are the fundamental subunits of all polymeric microtubule-based eukaryotic structures. Long, hollow structures each composed of 13 protofilaments as revealed by electron microscopy, microtubules (240 angstroms in diameter) are nearly ubiquitous in eukaryotes. These proteins have been the subject of intense biochemical and biophyiscal interest since the early 1970s and are of evolutionary interest as well. If tubulin-based structures (i.e., neurotubules, mitotic spindle tubules, centrioles, kinetosomes, axonemes, etc.) evolved from spirochetes by way of motility symbioses, tubulin homologies with spirochete proteins should be detectable. Tubulin proteins are widely thought to be limited to eukaryotes. Yet both azotobacters and spirochetes have shown immunological cross-reactivity with antitubulin antibodies. In neither of these studies was tubulin isolated nor any specific antigen identified as responsible for the immunoreactivity. Furthermore, although far less uniform in structure than eukaryotic microtubules, various cytoplasmic fibers and tubules (as seen by electron microscopy) have been reported in several types of prokaryotes (e.g., Spirochaeta; large termite spirochetes; treponemes; cyanobacteria; and Azotobacter. This work forms a part of our long-range study of the possible prokaryotic origin of tubulin and microtubules. Spirochetes are helically shaped gram-negative motile prokaryotes. They differ from all other bacterial in that the position of their flagella is periplasmic: their flagella lie between the inner and outer membranes of the gram-negative cell wall. Some of the largest spirochetes have longitudinally aligned 240 angstrom microtubules. Unfortunately, in spite of many attempts, all of the larger spirochetes (family Pillotaceae) with well-defined cytoplasmic tubules and antitubulin immunoreactivity are not cultivable. However, a newly described spirochete species (Spirochaeta bajacaliforniensis) possessing cytoplasmic fibers displays antitubulin immunoreactivity in whole-cell preparations. Since preliminary observations suggested that Spirochaeta bajacaliforniensis proteins may be related to eukaryotic tubulins, their characterization was undertaken. Brain tubulin can be purified by utilizing its ability to polymerize at warm temperatures and to depolymerize in the cold. After several cycles of sedimentation and redissolution the microtubule fraction is comprised of 75% tubulin and 20% high molecular mass microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). In this paper we report that components of cell lysates, prepared from a spirochete that contains cytoplasmic fibers (Spirochaeta bajacaliforniensis), also exhibit the property of temperature-dependent cyclical sedimentation. Additionally we report the identification and characterization of the polypeptide responsible for cross-reactivity with antitubulin antiserum.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Bermudes, D. (Boston University MA 02215, United States)
Fracek, S. P. Jr
Laursen, R. A.
Margulis, L.
Obar, R.
Tzertzinis, G.
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1987
Publication Information
Publication: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Volume: 503
ISSN: 0077-8923
Subject Category
Life Sciences (General)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Non-NASA Center
NASA Discipline Exobiology