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J Cell Sci. 2000 Aug;113 ( Pt 16):2821-7.

Cellular Samurai: katanin and the severing of microtubules.

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  • Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6. quarmby@sfu.ca


Recent biochemical studies of the AAA ATPase, katanin, provide a foundation for understanding how microtubules might be severed along their length. These in vitro studies are complemented by a series of recent reports of direct in vivo observation of microtubule breakage, which indicate that the in vitro phenomenon of catalysed microtubule severing is likely to be physiological. There is also new evidence that microtubule severing by katanin is important for the production of non-centrosomal microtubules in cells such as neurons and epithelial cells. Although it has been difficult to establish the role of katanin in mitosis, new genetic evidence indicates that a katanin-like protein, MEI-1, plays an essential role in meiosis in C. elegans. Finally, new proteins involved in the severing of axonemal microtubules have been discovered in the deflagellation system of Chlamydomonas.

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