We describe here the molecular cloning of the M(r) 18,000 dynein light chain from the outer arm of Chlamydomonas flagella. In vivo, this molecule is directly associated with the gamma dynein heavy chain. Sequence analysis indicates that this light chain is a novel member of the calmodulin superfamily of Ca2+ binding regulatory proteins; this molecule is 42, 37 and 36% identical to calmodulin, centrin/caltractin and troponin C, respectively, and also shows significant similarity to myosin light chains. Although four helix-loop-helix elements are evident, only two conform precisely to the EF hand consensus and are therefore predicted to bind Ca2+ in vivo. In vitro Ca2+ binding studies indicate that this dynein light chain (expressed as a C-terminal fusion with maltose binding protein) has at least one functional Ca2+ binding site with an apparent affinity for Ca2+ of approximately 3 × 10(−5) M. Within the Chlamydomonas flagellum, the transition from an assymmetric to a symmetric waveform (which implies an alteration in dynein activity) is mediated by an increase in intraflagellar Ca2+ from 10(−6) to 10(−1) M; this transition is altered in mutants that lack the outer arm. The data presented here suggest that a Ca(2+)-dependent alteration in the interaction of this dynein light chain with the motor containing heavy chain may affect outer arm function during flagellar reversal.

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