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A lumenal interrupted helix in human sperm tail microtubules

Journal article
Authors Davide Zabeo
J. M. Heumann
C. L. Schwartz
Azusa Suzuki-Shinjo
G. Morgan
Per O Widlund
Johanna L Höög
Published in Scientific Reports
Volume 8
ISSN 2045-2322
Publication year 2018
Published at Krefting Research Centre
Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Language en
Keywords cryoelectron tomography, molecular architecture, flagellar microtubules, structural transitions, doublet microtubules, trypanosoma-brucei, gamma-tubulin, fission yeast, beta-tubulin, in-vivo, Science & Technology - Other Topics, ntler wl, 1980, journal of cell science, v42, p207, handia el, 1968, american journal of anatomy, v122, p157, ates of america, v108, pe845, ates of america, v108, p11105, ates of america, v113, p9430, tchison tj, 1993, science, v261, p1044
Subject categories Cell Biology, Structural Biology, Biological Sciences, Cell and Molecular Biology


Eukaryotic flagella are complex cellular extensions involved in many human diseases gathered under the term ciliopathies. Currently, detailed insights on flagellar structure come mostly from studies on protists. Here, cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) was performed on intact human spermatozoon tails and showed a variable number of microtubules in the singlet region (inside the end-piece). Inside the microtubule plus end, a novel left-handed interrupted helix which extends several micrometers was discovered. This structure was named Tail Axoneme Intra-Lumenal Spiral (TAILS) and binds directly to 11 protofilaments on the internal microtubule wall, in a coaxial fashion with the surrounding microtubule lattice. It leaves a gap over the microtubule seam, which was directly visualized in both singlet and doublet microtubules. We speculate that TAILS may stabilize microtubules, enable rapid swimming or play a role in controlling the swimming direction of spermatozoa.

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