Experiments were performed on crane-fly spermatids (Nephrotoma suturalis Loew), ratsperm, and rat tracheal cilia to test whether all microtubules respond in the same way to different treatments. Crane-fly spermatids contain cytoplasmic microtubules, accessory tubules, and the 9 + 2 complex of tubules; rat sperm and rat tracheal cilia contain only the 9 + 2 tubules.
Crane-fly spermatid tubules responded to the experimental treatments as follows. After colchicine treatment, or storage at 0 °C, the cytoplasmic microtubules disappeared, while the 9 + 2 tubules were normal. After storage at 50 °C the cytoplasmic microtubules disappeared, and then the 9 + 2 tubules were affected: first the central tubules and B-tubules were affected, and later the A-tubules. After brief pepsin treatment, the 9 doublet tubules disappeared, while the other tubules appeared normal; after prolonged pepsin treatment the accessory, central, and cytoplasmic tubules disappeared. After negative staining at pH 7, the cytoplasmic microtubules were never seen, the central tubules were only sometimes seen, the B-tubules were sometimes fragmented, and the A-tubules were intact. On the basis of these responses, it was concluded that there are 4 classes of tubules in crane-fly spermatids, namely cytoplasmic microtubules; accessory tubules and central tubules (of the 9 + 2 complex); B-tubules (of the 9 + 2 complex); and A-tubules (of the 9 + 2 complex). At least some of the different responses appeared to be due to intrinsic physical and/or chemical differences between the tubules themselves.
Pepsin digestion and negative staining of rat sperm tails gave results similar to those with crane-fly spermatids. In addition, the 9 + 2 tubules responded differently to pepsin digestion at different points along their length. This gradient of sensitivity was attributed to synthesis of new tubules occurring at one end of the sperm tail. Pepsin digestion and negative staining of rat tracheal cilia gave results similar to those with crane-fly spermatids and rat sperm tails.
All the tubules had a similar substructure, as revealed by negative-staining techniques. It was concluded that microtubules are proteinaceous, at least in part, and that microtubules are different in composition from membranes.
It is suggested that the walls of the B-tubules are composed of two materials--(1) the portions adjacent to the A-tubules, and (2) the remaining portion.