The Molecular Architecture of Axonemes Revealed by Cryoelectron Tomography

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Eukaryotic flagella and cilia are built on a 9 + 2 array of microtubules plus >250 accessory proteins, forming a biological machine called the axoneme. Here we describe the three-dimensional structure of rapidly frozen axonemes from Chlamydomonas and sea urchin sperm, using cryoelectron tomography and image processing to focus on the motor enzyme dynein. Our images suggest a model for the way dynein generates force to slide microtubules. They also reveal two dynein linkers that may provide "hard-wiring" to coordinate motor enzyme action, both circumferentially and along the axoneme. Periodic densities were also observed inside doublet microtubules; these may contribute to doublet stability.

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