The giardins are a family of approximately 30000 Mr structural proteins found in microribbons attached to microtubules in the disc cytoskeleton of Giardia. After examining the solubility of giardins in various agents, a method has been developed to extract these polypeptides and subsequently precipitate them selectively. The giardin chains are soluble in 10 mM-HEPES/EDTA buffer at high pH and low ionic strength, but become insoluble in 10 mM-MES/EDTA buffer at pH 6.7 when the ionic strength is raised above 50 mM salt. By dialysing giardin extracts in turn against dissociating and reassembly buffers, the purification is obtained of a subset of giardin chains identified by sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis as the cytoskeleton bands 14a, 14b and 15. The structures forming under assembly conditions are all composed of fine filaments, 2–3 nm in diameter. Filaments after the first cycle of assembly are found in bundles, narrow ribbons of two or three filaments, and large ordered tactoids. Assembly after a second cycle of solubilization yields a more uniform population of long ribbons. Both the tactoids and the second cycle ribbons are transversely banded at the 15 nm interval characteristic of microribbons in the cytoskeleton. Filaments in the tactoids are precisely placed at a centre-to-centre separation of 2.5 nm. Other structural features of the tactoids are discussed in relation to the association behaviour and possible dimensions of the giardin molecular subunit.

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