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FEBS Lett. 1987 Apr 20;214(2):226-35.

A model of the nucleotide-binding site in tubulin.


Tubulin uses GTP to regulate microtubule assembly and is thought to be a member of a class of GDP/GTP-binding proteins (G-proteins) as defined by Hughes [(1983) Febs Lett. 164, 1-8]. How tubulin is structurally related to G-proteins is not known. We use a synthesis of sequence comparisons between tubulin, other G-proteins, and ADP/ATP-binding proteins and topological arguments to identify potential regions involved in nucleotide binding. We propose that the nucleotide-binding domain in the beta-subunit of tubulin is an alpha/beta structure derived from amino acid residues approximately 60-300. Five peptide sequences are identified which we suggest exist as 'loops' that extend from beta-strands and connect alpha-helices in this structure. We argue that GDP binds to four of the five loops in an Mg2+-independent manner while GTP binds in an Mg2+-dependent manner to a different combination of four loops. We propose that this switch between loops upon GTP binding induces a conformational change essential for microtubule assembly.

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