Kinesin superfamily proteins (KIFs) are probable motors in vesicular and non-vesicular transport along microtubular tracks. Since a variety of KIFs have been recently identified in the motile flagella of Chlamydomonas, we sought to ascertain whether KIFs are also associated with the connecting cilia of vertebrate rod photoreceptors. As the only structural link between the rod inner segment and the photosensitive rod outer segment, the connecting cilium is thought to be the channel through which all material passes into and out of the outer segment from the rod cell body. We have performed immunological tests on isolated sunfish rod inner-outer segments (RIS-ROS) using two antibodies that recognize the conserved motor domain of numerous KIFs (anti-LAGSE, a peptide antibody, and anti-Klp1 head, generated against the N terminus of Chlamydomonas Klp1) as well as an antibody specific to a neuronal KIF, KIF3A. On immunoblots of RIS-ROS, LAGSE antibody detected a prominent band at approximately 117 kDa, which is likely to be kinesin heavy chain, and Klp1 head antibody detected a single band at approximately 170 kDa; KIF3A antibody detected a polypeptide at approximately 85 kDa which co-migrated with mammalian KIF3A and displayed ATP-dependent release from rod cytoskeletons. Immunofluorescence localizations with anti-LAGSE and anti-Klp1 head antibodies detected epitopes in the axoneme and ellipsoid, and immunoelectron microscopy with the LAGSE antibody showed that the connecting cilium region was particularly antigenic. Immunofluorescence with anti-KIF3A showed prominent labelling of the connecting cilium and the area surrounding its basal body; the outer segment axoneme and parts of the inner segment coincident with microtubules were also labelled. We propose that these putative kinesin superfamily proteins may be involved in the translocation of material between the rod inner and outer segments.

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