SUMMARY: Previous studies have shown that gas vesicles isolated from the cyanobacterium contain two types of protein, GvpA, a small hydrophobic protein that forms the main ribbed structure, and GvpC, a protein comprising five repeats of a 33-amino-acid-residue motif, which is located on the outer surface of the GvpA shell. GvpC was shown to increase the critical collapse pressure of the gas vesicles; it was thought to do this by forming a series of molecular ties that bind the ribs together. We now show that antibodies raised against GvpC label both the central cylinders and the conical end caps of native gas vesicles but fail to bind to gas vesicles that have been stripped of GvpC. The molar ratio of GvpA to GvpC has been calculated from amino acid analyses of gas vesicle hydrolysates by reference to the abundance of amino acids that occur predominantly or exclusively in one protein or the other; the molar ratio was found to be 25:1 in freshly isolated gas vesicles and 23:1 in gas vesicles saturated with GvpC. We have considered three ways in which the 33-residue repeats of GvpC might interact with the crystallographic unit cell of GvpA molecules in the ribs. The GvpC will bind to and restore the strength of gas vesicles isolated from and that lack their native GvpC.


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