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Methods Cell Biol. 2010;97:401-14. doi: 10.1016/S0091-679X(10)97021-0.

Melanophores for microtubule dynamics and motility assays.

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Department of Cell Biology, R. D. Berlin Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06032-1507, USA.


Microtubules (MTs) are cytoskeletal structures essential for cell division, locomotion, intracellular transport, and spatial organization of the cytoplasm. In most interphase cells, MTs are organized into a polarized radial array with minus-ends clustered at the centrosome and plus-ends extended to the cell periphery. This array directs transport of organelles driven by MT-based motor proteins that specifically move either to plus- or to minus-ends. Along with using MTs as tracks for cargo, motor proteins can organize MTs into a radial array in the absence of the centrosome. Transport of organelles and motor-dependent radial organization of MTs require MT dynamics, continuous addition and loss of tubulin subunits at minus- and plus-ends. A unique experimental system for studying the role of MT dynamics in these processes is the melanophore, which provides a useful tool for imaging of both dynamic MTs and moving membrane organelles. Melanophores are filled with pigment granules that are synchronously transported by motor proteins in response to hormonal stimuli. The flat shape of the cell and the radial organization of MTs facilitate imaging of dynamic MT plus-ends and monitoring of their interaction with membrane organelles. Microsurgically produced cytoplasmic fragments of melanophores are used to study the centrosome-independent rearrangement of MTs into a radial array. Here we describe the experimental approaches to study the role of MT dynamics in intracellular transport and centrosome-independent MT organization in melanophores. We focus on the preparation of cell cultures, microsurgery and microinjection, fluorescence labeling, and live imaging of MTs.

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