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Science. 2004 Nov 5;306(5698):1021-5.

Dynamic instability in a DNA-segregating prokaryotic actin homolog.

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  • 1University of California, 600 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA.


Dynamic instability-the switching of a two-state polymer between phases of steady elongation and rapid shortening-is essential to the cellular function of eukaryotic microtubules, especially during chromosome segregation. Since the discovery of dynamic instability 20 years ago, no other biological polymer has been found to exhibit this behavior. Using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy and fluorescence resonance energy transfer, we observe that the prokaryotic actin homolog ParM, whose assembly is required for the segregation of large, low-copy number plasmids, displays both dynamic instability and symmetrical, bidirectional polymerization. The dynamic instability of ParM is regulated by adenosine triphosphate (ATP) hydrolysis, and filaments are stabilized by a cap of ATP-bound monomers. ParM is not related to tubulin, so its dynamic instability must have arisen by convergent evolution driven by a set of common constraints on polymer-based segregation of DNA.

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