Microtubule polymerization dynamics result from the biochemical interactions of αβ-tubulin with the polymer end, but a quantitative understanding has been challenging to establish. We used interference reflection microscopy to make improved measurements of microtubule growth rates and growth fluctuations in the presence and absence of GTP hydrolysis. In the absence of GTP hydrolysis, microtubules grew steadily with very low fluctuations. These data were best described by a computational model implementing slow assembly kinetics, such that the rate of microtubule elongation is primarily limited by the rate of αβ-tubulin associations. With GTPase present, microtubules displayed substantially larger growth fluctuations than expected based on the no GTPase measurements. Our modeling showed that these larger fluctuations occurred because exposure of GDP-tubulin on the microtubule end transiently 'poisoned' growth, yielding a wider range of growth rates compared to GTP only conditions. Our experiments and modeling point to slow association kinetics (strong longitudinal interactions), such that drugs and regulatory proteins that alter microtubule dynamics could do so by modulating either the association or dissociation rate of tubulin from the microtubule tip. By causing slower growth, exposure of GDP-tubulin at the growing microtubule end may be an important early event determining catastrophe.
- bovine brain
- cell biology
- microtubule dynamics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)