Critical contact residues that mediate polymerization of nematode major sperm protein

Journal of Cellular Biochemistry
Antonio del Castillo-Olivares, Harold Smith


The polymerization of protein filaments provides the motive force in a variety of cellular processes involving cell motility and intracellular transport. Regulated assembly and disassembly of the major sperm protein (MSP) underlies amoeboid movement in nematode sperm, and offers an attractive model system for characterizing the biomechanical properties of filament formation and force generation. To that end, structure-function studies of MSP from the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans have been performed. Recombinant MSP was purified from Escherichia coli using a novel affinity chromatography technique, and filament assembly was assessed by in vitro polymerization in the presence of polyethylene glycol. Prior molecular studies and structure from X-ray crystallography have implicated specific residues in protein-protein interactions necessary for filament assembly. Purified MSP containing substitutions in these residues fails to form filaments in vitro. Short peptides based on predicted sites of interaction also effectively disrupt MSP polymerization. These results confirm the structural determination of intermolecular contacts and demonstrate the importance of these residues in MSP assembly.


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