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Biochem Cell Biol. 1992 Oct-Nov;70(10-11):835-41.

Towards an understanding of microtubule function and cell organization: an overview.

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Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S., Canada.


Microtubules exhibit dynamic instability, converting abruptly between assembly and disassembly with continued growth dependent on the presence of a tubulin-GTP cap at the plus end of the organelle. Tubulin, the main structural protein of microtubules, is a heterodimer composed of related polypeptides termed alpha-tubulin and beta-tubulin. Most eukaryotic cells possess several isoforms of the alpha- and beta-tubulins, as well as gamma-tubulin, an isoform restricted to the centrosome. The isoforms of tubulin arise either as the products of different genes or by posttranslational processes and their synthesis is subject to regulation. Tubulin isoforms coassemble with one another and isoform composition does not appear to determine whether a microtubule is able to carry out one particular activity or another. However, the posttranslational modification of polymerized tubulin may provide chemical signals which designate microtubules for a certain function. Microtubules interact with proteins called microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) and they can be divided into two groups. The structural MAPs stimulate tubulin assembly, enhance microtubule stability, and influence the spatial distribution of microtubules within cells. The dynamic MAPs take advantage of microtubule polarity and organization to vectorially translocate cellular components. The interactions between microtubules and MAPs contribute to the structural-functional integration that characterizes eukaryotic cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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