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Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 1992;21(3):171-86.

End-stabilized microtubules observed in vitro: stability, subunit, interchange, and breakage.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.


We report a reliable method to prepare, in vitro, microtubules that are stabilized at both ends by axonemal structures, and report studies of their properties. Such "end-stabilized" microtubules neither grow nor shorten over times of several hours when tubulin subunits are present in the surrounding solution. When subunits are removed, the microtubules eventually break. Breakage occurs within a sinuous and flexible region, a few microns in length, that begins at a single point on the microtubule and grows. When breakage does occur, the resulting two free ends shorten very rapidly until the flexible part has depolymerized and the region of straight microtubule is reached. The remainder of the microtubule then shortens at rates comparable to those ordinarily observed in dynamic instability. Formation of the flexible region can be reversed if subunits are added to the buffer prior to breakage. End-stabilized microtubules are a useful tool for studying interactions of molecules with the microtubular wall. They may be a good model for interpreting stabilizing events that happen in the cell. A preliminary study of the effects of microtubule poisons on the wall is presented.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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