Electron Cryo-Tomography Structure of Axonemal Doublet Microtubule from Tetrahymena thermophila

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Doublet microtubules (DMT) provide a scaffold for axoneme assembly in motile cilia. Aside from α/β tubulins, the DMT comprises a large number of non-tubulin proteins in the luminal wall of DMT, collectively named the microtubule inner proteins (MIPs). We used electron cryo-tomography to study axoneme DMT isolated from Tetrahymena thermophila . We present the structures of DMT at nanometer and sub-nanometer resolution. The structures confirm that MIP Rib72A/B binds to the luminal wall of the DMT by multiple DM10 domains, likely by recognizing the acetylated K40 residue of α-tubulin. We found Fap115, a MIP containing multiple EF-hand domains, located at the interface of four-tubulin dimers in the lumen of the A-tubule. It functions as a “molecular staple” stabilizing both lateral and longitudinal tubulin interfaces and playing a critical role in DMT stability. Defects caused by the depletion of Fap115 propagate along the axoneme due to extensive structural changes in the DMT at and beyond the Fap115 binding site. Finally, by comparing DMT structures from Tetrahymena and Chlamydomonas , we have identified a number of conserved MIPs as well as MIPs that are unique to each organism. This conservation and diversity of the DMT structures might be linked to their specific functions. Our work provides structural insights essential for understanding the roles of MIPs during motile cilium assembly and function, as well as their relationships to human ciliopathies.

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