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Structural heterogeneity of the microtubule lattice

By Charlotte Guyomar, Siou Ku, John Heumann, Clément Bousquet, Gabriel Guilloux, Natacha Gaillard, Claire Heichette, Laurence Duchesne, Michel O. Steinmetz, Romain Gibeaux, Denis Chrétien

Posted 14 Jul 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.14.452321

Microtubules are polymers assembled from tubulin -{beta}-heterodimers. They typically display lateral - and {beta}-{beta}-homotypic interactions, except at one region, called the seam, where heterotypic -{beta} and {beta}- interactions occur. Here, we decorated microtubules assembled in vitro or in cytoplasmic Xenopus egg extracts with kinesin-motor domains, and analyzed their lattice organization using dual axis cryo-electron tomography followed by segmented sub-tomogram averaging. In both conditions, microtubules incorporated variable protofilament and/or tubulin subunit helix start numbers. While microtubules assembled in vitro displayed variable numbers of seams, those assembled in extracts displayed preferentially one seam. The seam location varied within individual microtubules implying the presence of lattice holes. Thus, the formation of discontinuous microtubule lattices is an intrinsic property of tubulin assembly, a process that is controlled in cells.

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