Mammalian cilia function is independent of the polymeric state of tubulin glycylation

Starlette J.Y. Dossou, Marie Hélène Bré, Richard Hallworth

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17 Scopus citations


Polyglycylation is a polymeric post-translational modification of tubulin that is ubiquitous and widely present in cilia and flagella. It consists of the addition of highly variable numbers of glycyl residues as side chains onto the γ carboxyl group of specific glutamyl residues at the C-termini of α- and β-tubulin. The function of polyglycylation is poorly understood, however, studies in Tetrahymena have shown that the mutation of polyglycylation sites in β-tubulin resulted in axonemal abnormality or lethality. This suggests that polyglycylation is functionally essential in protists. We hypothesize that polyglycylation is also essential in mammalian cilia and that the extent of polyglycylation has functional significance. In this study, we examined polyglycylation states in ciliated tissues and in mouse tracheal epithelial cell cultures. We utilized two antibodies, TAP 952 and AXO 49, which recognize glutamyl sites possessing monomeric glycylation sites and glutamyl sites possessing polymeric glycylation sites, respectively. Monomeric glycylation sites were observed in cilia of all the ciliated tissues examined but were invariably excluded from the distal tips. In contrast, polymeric glycylation sites were rare, but when observed, they were localized at the bases of cilia. During ciliogenesis, in epithelial cell cultures, monomeric glycylation sites were observed, but the extent of polymeric glycylation sites were variable and were only observed during the early stages of the cultures. Our observations suggest that while monomeric glycylation sites are universal and likely essential in mammalian cilia, polymeric glycylation sites are not required for ciliary beating. Rather, our observations suggest that the number of added glycyl residues increases progressively from the tips of cilia toward their bases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-855
Number of pages9
JournalCell Motility and the Cytoskeleton
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Biology


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