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Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 1995;32(3):173-86.

Centripetal transport of microtubules in motile cells.

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Department of Pathology, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The study of microtubule (MT) dynamics in cells has largely been restricted to events occurring over relatively short periods in nonmotile or stationary cells in culture. By using the antioxidant, Oxyrase, we have reduced the sensitivity of fluorescent MTs to photodamage and this has allowed us to image fluorescent MTs with good temporal resolution over much longer periods of time. We have used our enhanced imaging capabilities to examine MT dynamics in fibroblasts moving directionally into a wound. We found that MTs in these cells exhibited dynamic instability similar to that reported for other cells. More interestingly, we found a novel dynamic behavior of the MTs in which entire MTs were moved inward from the leading edge toward the cell nucleus. This centripetal transport (CT) of MTs only occurred to those MTs that were oriented with their long axis parallel to the leading edge; radially oriented MTs were not transported centripetally. Both small bundles of MTs and individual MTs were observed to undergo CT at a rate of 0.63 +/- 0.37 micron/min. This rate was similar to the rate of CT of latex beads applied to the cell surface and of endogenous pinocytotic vesicles in the cytoplasm. When we imaged both MTs and pinocytotic vesicles, we found that the pinocytotic vesicles were ensheathed by a small group of parallel MTs that moved centripetally in concert with the vesicles. Conversely, we found many instances of MTs moving centripetally without associated vesicles. When cells were treated with nocodazole to depolymerize MTs rapidly, the rate of pinocytotic vesicle CT was inhibited by 75%. This suggests that centripetal transport of MTs may be involved in the movement of pinocytotic vesicles in cells. In conclusion, our results show that MTs in motile cells are redistributed by a novel mechanism, CT, that does not require changes in polymer length. The centripetally transported MTs may play a role in transporting pinocytotic vesicles in the cell.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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