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Cell. 1999 Jan 8;96(1):79-88.

High-resolution model of the microtubule.

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  • 1Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Molecular and Cell Biology Department, University of California at Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


A high-resolution model of the microtubule has been obtained by docking the crystal structure of tubulin into a 20 A map of the microtubule. The excellent fit indicates the similarity of the tubulin conformation in both polymers and defines the orientation of the tubulin structure within the microtubule. Long C-terminal helices form the crest on the outside of the protofilament, while long loops define the microtubule lumen. The exchangeable nucleotide in beta-tubulin is exposed at the plus end of the microtubule, while the proposed catalytic residue in alpha-tubulin is exposed at the minus end. Extensive longitudinal interfaces between monomers have polar and hydrophobic components. At the lateral contacts, a nucleotide-sensitive helix interacts with a loop that contributes to the binding site of taxol in beta-tubulin.

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