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Neuroscience. 1986 Feb;17(2):371-89.

Microtubule-associated protein 2 and tubulin are differently distributed in the dendrites of developing neurons.


We have followed the appearance of two microtubule proteins, tubulin and microtubule-associated protein 2, in rat hippocampal neurons differentiating in cell culture. Double-label immunofluorescence staining showed that from day 1 in vitro onward tubulin appeared as filaments but that microtubule-associated protein 2 remained distributed throughout the cytoplasm. This difference persisted throughout development and was also detectable in cells that had reached morphological maturity. When cells were treated with the microtubule-depolymerizing agent nocodazole, the depolymerized tubulin became spread throughout the cytoplasm so that its distribution was then identical to microtubule associated protein 2. At the same time, multiple side branches began to emerge along the dendrites. When cells which had been exposed to nocodazole were allowed to recover before staining, the tubulin was again present as filaments but the microtubule-associated protein 2 remained distributed throughout the dendritic cytoplasm. Under these conditions the previously extended proximal side branches were resorbed into the main process. These results suggest that cellular microtubule-associated protein 2 is not necessarily exclusively associated with microtubules. Neuronal dendrites in particular appear to contain this protein at levels in excess of the capacity of microtubular microtubule-associated protein 2 binding sites. In view of the known effectiveness of microtubule-associated protein 2 as a promoter of tubulin polymerization, its abundance in dendrites suggests that it acts to ensure total polymerization of dendritic microtubules. In this way it would contribute both to the support of the growing process and the suppression of adventitious sidebranching.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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