Extraction of rat brain myelin in a buffer containing Triton X-100 yielded a soluble fraction and an insoluble residue that was enriched in cytoskeletal elements. Immunoblot analysis of the detergent-soluble fraction and the insoluble cytoskeletal residue showed that all of the tubulin and more than half of the actin were found within the cytoskeletal fraction. The distribution of myelin-specific proteins was also examined, and revealed that 2′,3′-cyclic nucleotide 3′-phosphohydrolase (CNPase) I and most of the myelin basic proteins (MBPs) were equally distributed between both fractions. By contrast, the large MBP (21.5 kDa) and CNPase II (50 kDa) were observed to partition almost entirely with the cytoskeletal fraction. Proteolipid protein was found predominantly in the detergent-soluble fraction, as was DM-20 protein. Analysis of the cytoskeletal fraction by sucrose-density-gradient centrifugation demonstrated that a distinct subset of lipids was tightly bound to the cytoskeletal protein residue. The cytoskeleton-associated lipid was considerably enriched in cerebroside and sphingomyelin by comparison with total myelin lipids. These results indicate that a cytoskeletal matrix is associated with multilamellar myelin, and suggest that this structure may play a fundamental role in myelinogenesis.

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