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J Cell Sci. 2001 Jan;114(Pt 1):161-172.

Characterization of the microtubule binding domain of microtubule actin crosslinking factor (MACF): identification of a novel group of microtubule associated proteins.

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Departments of Pathology and Anatomy and Cell Biology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA.


MACF (microtubule actin cross-linking factor) is a large, 608-kDa protein that can associate with both actin microfilaments and microtubules (MTs). Structurally, MACF can be divided into 3 domains: an N-terminal domain that contains both a calponin type actin-binding domain and a plakin domain; a rod domain that is composed of 23 dystrophin-like spectrin repeats; and a C-terminal domain that includes two EF-hand calcium-binding motifs, as well as a region that is homologous to two related proteins, GAR22 and Gas2. We have previously demonstrated that the C-terminal domain of MACF binds to MTs, although no homology was observed between this domain and other known microtubule-binding proteins. In this report, we describe the characterization of this microtubule-binding domain of MACF by transient transfection studies and in vitro binding assays. We found that the C-terminus of MACF contains at least two microtubule-binding regions, a GAR domain and a domain containing glycine-serine-arginine (GSR) repeats. In transfected cells, the GAR domain bound to and partially stabilized MTs to depolymerization by nocodazole. The GSR-containing domain caused MTs to form bundles that are still sensitive to nocodazole-induced depolymerization. When present together, these two domains acted in concert to bundle MTs and render them stable to nocodazole treatment. Recently, a study has shown that the N-terminal half of the plakin domain (called the M1 domain) of MACF also binds MTs. We therefore examined the microtubule binding ability of the M1 domain in the context of the entire plakin domain with and without the remaining N-terminal regions of two different MACF isoforms. Interestingly, in the presence of the surrounding sequences, the M1 domain did not bind MTs. In addition to MACF, cDNA sequences encoding the GAR and GSR-containing domains are also found in the partial human EST clone KIAA0728, which has high sequence homology to the 3' end of the MACF cDNA; hence, we refer to it as MACF2. The C-terminal domain of mouse MACF2 was cloned and characterized. The microtubule-binding properties of MACF2 C-terminal domain are similar to that of MACF. The GAR domain was originally found in Gas 2 protein and here we show that it can associate with MTs in transfected cells. Plectin and desmoplakin have GSR-containing domains at their C-termini and we further demonstrate that the GSR-containing domain of plectin, but not desmoplakin, can bind to MTs in vivo.

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