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J Biol Chem. 1985 Mar 10;260(5):2819-25.

4',6-Diamidino-2-phenylindole, a fluorescent probe for tubulin and microtubules.


A new fluorophor for tubulin which has permitted the monitoring of microtubule assembly in vitro is reported. DAPI (4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole), a fluorophor already known as a DNA intercalator, was shown to bind specifically to a unique tubulin site as a dimer (KD(app) = 43 +/- 5 microM at 37 degrees C) or to tubulin associated in microtubules (KD(app) = 6 +/- 2 microM at 37 degrees C) with the same maximum enhancement in fluorescence. When tubulin polymerization was induced with GTP, the change in DAPI affinity for tubulin resulted in an enhancement of DAPI binding and, consequently, of fluorescence intensity. DAPI, whose binding site is different from that of colchicine, vinblastine, or taxol, did not interfere greatly with microtubule polymerization. It induced a slight diminution of the critical concentration for tubulin assembly due to a decrease in the depolymerizing rate constant. Moreover, DAPI did not interfere with GTP hydrolysis correlated with tubulin polymerization, but it decreased the GTPase activity at the steady state of tubulin assembly. Even at substoichiometric levels DAPI can be used to follow the kinetics of microtubule assembly.

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