Electron cryo-tomography structure of axonemal doublet microtubule from Tetrahymena thermophila

Sam Li, Jose Jesus Fernandez, Amy S. Fabritius, David A. Agard, Mark Winey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Doublet microtubules (DMTs) 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 DMTs, collectively named the microtubule inner proteins (MIPs). We used cryoET to study axoneme DMT isolated from Tetrahymena. 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 DMT by multiple DM10 domains. We found FAP115, an MIP-containing multiple EF-hand domains, located at the interface of four-tubulin dimers in the lumen of A-tubule. It contacts both lateral and longitudinal tubulin interfaces and playing a critical role in DMT stability. We observed substantial structure heterogeneity in DMT in an FAP115 knockout strain, showing extensive structural defects beyond the FAP115-binding site. The defects propagate along the axoneme. 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere202101225
JournalLife Science Alliance
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Plant Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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