Individual Neurofilament Subunits Reassembled in vitro Exhibit Unique Biochemical, Morphological and Immunological Properties

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Purified bovine neurofilament (NF) subunit proteins were reassembled in vitro to form either homopolymeric or heteropolymeric intermediate-sized filaments using single or paired combinations of NF triplet proteins. Using conditions established for the reassembly of bovine NF triplet proteins2, we demonstrated that the low Mr NF subunit (NF-L) alone and in combination with the middle Mr NF subunit (NF-M) reassembled very efficiently, i.e. 95% of these proteins formed filaments within 90 min from the start of reassembly. In contra-distinction, the high Mr NF subunit (NF-H) alone and in combination with NF-M or NF-L underwent reassembly to a lesser extent, i.e. 62–88% of these proteins reassembled within 90 min. Immunolabeling of the reassembled NF polymers revealed striking differences in the organization of rod domain determinants. Specifically, antibodies specific for epitopes in the rod domains of NF-H, NF-M and NF-L failed to bind heteropolymeric filaments but recognized rod domains in the homopolymers. In contrast, antibodies specific to head and tail domains of all NF proteins labeled the reassembled hetero- and homopolymeric NFs. Double-labeling of heteropolymers demonstrated that pairs of different NF subunits coassembled into intermediate-sized filaments. Our results also showed that only copolymeric filaments of NF-L and NF-M, but not NF-L/NF-H and NF-M/NF-H were able to form long and stable 10 nm wide filaments. These observations provide new insights into the requirements for stable filament formation from NF subunits. In particular, they support the notion that only NF-L/NF-M, but not NF-L/NF-H or NF-M/NF-H might assemble into a stable filamentous network in vivo.

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Brain Research





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