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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1975 Sep;72(9):3570-4.

Inhibition of tubulin assembly by RNA and other polyanions: evidence for a required protein.


Nonneural cell extracts contain a heat-stable, nondialyzable activity that will inhibit the spontaneous assembly in vitro of partially purified brain tubulin. The sensitivity of this inhibitory activity to ribonucleases but not to a variety of other hydrolytic enzymes indicates that the inhibitor is an RNA. This conclusion is supported by the observation that purified RNAs from sea urchins, chinese hamster ovary cells, and brain all inhibit spontaneous microtubule assembly in vitro. The synthetic polynucleotides [poly(A), (C), (G), and (U)] are also inhibitory. This inhibition, however, appears to be nonspecific since the RNA base composition is unimportant and a variety of other nonnucleic acid polyanions also function as inhibitors. The treatment of assembly competent tubulin preparations with an insoluble RNA in the form of poly(A) covalently linked to agarose beads produces a "stripped" tubulin which will not assemble microtubules unless a heat-stable, trypsin-sensitive fraction eluted with increased ionic strength is mixed with the "stripped" tubulin. Similar results can be obtained with other cation exchangers, including phosphocellulose and carboxymethylcellulose. The heat-stable protein sequestered by poly(A)-agarose appears to be identical to the "tau" factor recently described by Kirschner and coworkers. Reconstitution experiments indicate that there is a stoichiometric requirement for these factors. These results suggest that spontaneous assembly of microtubules in nonneural cell extracts is blocked because the endogenous factors are complexed with RNA. This idea is supported by the observation that the ratio of tubulin to RNA is low in cultured cell extracts but very high in neural tissue extracts.

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