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      Direct observation of individual tubulin dimers binding to growing microtubules

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          Abstract

          The biochemical basis of microtubule growth has remained elusive for over 30 years despite being fundamental for both cell division and associated chemotherapy strategies. Here, we combine interferometric scattering microscopy with recombinant tubulin to monitor individual tubulins binding to and dissociating from growing microtubule tips. We make direct, single-molecule measurements of tubulin association and dissociation rates. We detect two populations of transient dwell times and determine via binding-interface mutants that they are distinguished by the formation of one interprotofilament bond. Applying a computational model, we find that slow association kinetics with strong interactions along protofilaments best recapitulate our data and, furthermore, predicts plus-end tapering. Overall, we provide the most direct and complete experimental quantification of how microtubules grow to date.

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          Most cited references 42

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          Principles of Fluorescence Spectroscopy

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            Dynamic instability of individual microtubules analyzed by video light microscopy: rate constants and transition frequencies

            We have developed video microscopy methods to visualize the assembly and disassembly of individual microtubules at 33-ms intervals. Porcine brain tubulin, free of microtubule-associated proteins, was assembled onto axoneme fragments at 37 degrees C, and the dynamic behavior of the plus and minus ends of microtubules was analyzed for tubulin concentrations between 7 and 15.5 microM. Elongation and rapid shortening were distinctly different phases. At each end, the elongation phase was characterized by a second order association and a substantial first order dissociation reaction. Association rate constants were 8.9 and 4.3 microM-1 s-1 for the plus and minus ends, respectively; and the corresponding dissociation rate constants were 44 and 23 s-1. For both ends, the rate of tubulin dissociation equaled the rate of tubulin association at 5 microM. The rate of rapid shortening was similar at the two ends (plus = 733 s-1; minus = 915 s-1), and did not vary with tubulin concentration. Transitions between phases were abrupt and stochastic. As the tubulin concentration was increased, catastrophe frequency decreased at both ends, and rescue frequency increased dramatically at the minus end. This resulted in fewer rapid shortening phases at higher tubulin concentrations for both ends and shorter rapid shortening phases at the minus end. At each concentration, the frequency of catastrophe was slightly greater at the plus end, and the frequency of rescue was greater at the minus end. Our data demonstrate that microtubules assembled from pure tubulin undergo dynamic instability over a twofold range of tubulin concentrations, and that the dynamic instability of the plus and minus ends of microtubules can be significantly different. Our analysis indicates that this difference could produce treadmilling, and establishes general limits on the effectiveness of length redistribution as a measure of dynamic instability. Our results are consistent with the existence of a GTP cap during elongation, but are not consistent with existing GTP cap models.
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              Assembly dynamics of microtubules at molecular resolution.

              Microtubules are highly dynamic protein polymers that form a crucial part of the cytoskeleton in all eukaryotic cells. Although microtubules are known to self-assemble from tubulin dimers, information on the assembly dynamics of microtubules has been limited, both in vitro and in vivo, to measurements of average growth and shrinkage rates over several thousands of tubulin subunits. As a result there is a lack of information on the sequence of molecular events that leads to the growth and shrinkage of microtubule ends. Here we use optical tweezers to observe the assembly dynamics of individual microtubules at molecular resolution. We find that microtubules can increase their overall length almost instantaneously by amounts exceeding the size of individual dimers (8 nm). When the microtubule-associated protein XMAP215 (ref. 6) is added, this effect is markedly enhanced and fast increases in length of about 40-60 nm are observed. These observations suggest that small tubulin oligomers are able to add directly to growing microtubules and that XMAP215 speeds up microtubule growth by facilitating the addition of long oligomers. The achievement of molecular resolution on the microtubule assembly process opens the way to direct studies of the molecular mechanism by which the many recently discovered microtubule end-binding proteins regulate microtubule dynamics in living cells.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                February 25 2019
                : 201815823
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1815823116
                © 2019

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