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Essays Biochem. 2018 Dec 7;62(6):765-780. doi: 10.1042/EBC20180028. Print 2018 Dec 7.

Microtubule nucleation by γ-tubulin complexes and beyond.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, U.K.
Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, U.K.


In this short review, we give an overview of microtubule nucleation within cells. It is nearly 30 years since the discovery of γ-tubulin, a member of the tubulin superfamily essential for proper microtubule nucleation in all eukaryotes. γ-tubulin associates with other proteins to form multiprotein γ-tubulin ring complexes (γ-TuRCs) that template and catalyse the otherwise kinetically unfavourable assembly of microtubule filaments. These filaments can be dynamic or stable and they perform diverse functions, such as chromosome separation during mitosis and intracellular transport in neurons. The field has come a long way in understanding γ-TuRC biology but several important and unanswered questions remain, and we are still far from understanding the regulation of microtubule nucleation in a multicellular context. Here, we review the current literature on γ-TuRC assembly, recruitment, and activation and discuss the potential importance of γ-TuRC heterogeneity, the role of non-γ-TuRC proteins in microtubule nucleation, and whether γ-TuRCs could serve as good drug targets for cancer therapy.


MTOC; centrosome; g-TuRC; gamma-tubulin ring complex; microtubule

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