Dynein has been examined by scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM). Samples of 30S dynein from tetrahymena cilia were applied to carbon films and either were freeze- dried and examined as unstained, unfixed specimens, or were negatively stained with uranyl sulfate. A totally new image of the dynein molecule was revealed showing three globular heads connected by three separate strands to a common base. Two of the heads appeared to be identical and exhibited a diameter of 10 nm while the third head was somewhat larger (approximately 12 nm). The overall length of the particle was 35 nm. Mass analysis, based upon the integration of electron scattering intensities for unstained particles, gave a molecular weight of 1.95 (+/-)0.24) megadaltons. Mass per unit length analysis was performed using bovine brain microtubules decorated with dynein under conditions where the dynein shows a linear repeat of 24 nm with seven dynein molecules surrounding a microtubule made up of 14 protofilaments. Undecorated microtubules gave a molecular weight per unit length of 21,000+/-1,900 daltons/A, compared to a value of 84,400+/-2,200 daltons/A for the fully decorated microtubules. Taken together, these data give a molecular weight of 2.17 (+/- 0.14) megadaltons per dynein molecule, in agreement with measurements on the isolated particles. Mass analysis of individual globular heads observed in isolated particles gave a molecular weight distribution with a mean of 416+/- 76 kdaltons. These data could also be viewed as the sum of two populations of head with two-thirds of the heads at approximately 400 kdaltons and one-third at approximately 550 kdaltons, although more precise data will be required to distinguish two classes of heads with confidence. The mass of the dynein-microtubule complex as a function of distance from the midline of the particle was analysed to distinguish which end of the dynein molecule was bound to the microtubule. The projected mass distribution was consistent with a model where the three dynein heads were oriented toward the microtubule and clearly not consistent with the opposite orientation. These data indicate that the three globular heads form the ATP-sensitive site in this heterologous dynein-microtubule system and suggest that the rootlike base of the dynein molecule forms the structural attachment site to the A-subfiber of the outer doublet in cilia and flagella. The structure and function of the dynein are dicussed in terms of these new results.

This content is only available as a PDF.