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A previous study (King et al., 1991. J. Biol. Chem. 266:8401-8407) showed that the 78,000-M(r) intermediate chain (IC78) from the Chlamydomonas outer arm dynein is in direct contact with alpha-tubulin in situ, suggesting that this protein may be involved in binding the dynein to the doublet microtubules. Molecular genetic analysis of this chain recently demonstrated that it is a WD repeat protein essential for outer arm assembly (Wilkerson et al., 1995.J. Cell Biol. 129:169- 178). We have now transcribed and translated IC78 in vitro, and demonstrate that this molecule binds axonemes and microtubules, whereas a homologous protein (the 69,000-M(r) intermediate chain [IC69] of Chlamydomonas outer arm dynein) does not. Thus, IC78 is a bona fide microtubule-binding protein. Taken together with the previous results, these findings indicate that IC78 is likely to provide at least some of the adhesive force that holds the dynein to the doublet microtubule, and support the general hypothesis that the dynein intermediate chains are involved in targeting different dyneins to the specific cell organelles with which they associate. Analysis of the binding activities of various IC78 deletion constructs translated in vitro identified discrete regions of IC78 that affected the binding to microtubules; two of these regions are specifically missing in IC69. Previous studies also showed that IC78 is in direct contact with IC69; the current work indicates that the region of IC78 that mediates this interaction is coincident with two of IC78's WD repeats. This supports the hypothesis that these repeats are involved in protein-protein interactions within the dynein complex.