The major non-tubulin polypeptide found associated with microtubules purified from unfertilized sea urchin eggs by cycles of pH-dependent assembly has a Mr of 77,000. The 77,000 Mr polypeptide is heat- and acid-labile, and is antigenically distinct from the mammalian brain MAPs, MAP-2 and tau. Affinity-purified antiserum against the 77,000 Mr polypeptide was used to survey a variety of cells and tissues for the presence of antigenically related polypeptides. A cross-reacting polypeptide, ranging in Mr from 72,000 to 80,000, was found in microtubule preparations from a wide variety of echinoderms, including sea urchins, starfish and sand dollars. Indirect immunofluorescence showed that the polypetide was found in interphase as well as mitotic microtubule arrays. No cross-reacting material was detected in microtubules isolated from marine molluscs, mammalian brain or mouse B16 cultured cells. Because the 77,000 Mr MAP is abundant in echinoderms, we have called it EMAP for echinoderm microtubule-associated protein. Although the precise function of the EMAP is not known, our data suggest that the EMAP is involved in the attachment of ribosomes to microtubules. Large numbers of ribosomes are attached to the walls of EMAP-containing microtubules, but not EMAP-deficient microtubules. Removal of the EMAP from the microtubule by salt-extraction results in the release of ribosomes from the microtubule, indicating that the EMAP may form part or all of the long tapered stalk that connects these two organelles.

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