Long-range, through-lattice coupling improves predictions of microtubule catastrophe

Tae Kim, Luke M. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Microtubules are cylindrical polymers of αβ-tubulin that play critical roles in fundamental processes such as chromosome segregation and vesicular transport. Microtubules display dynamic instability, switching stochastically between growth and rapid shrinking as a consequence of GTPase activity in the lattice. The molecular mechanisms behind microtubule catastrophe, the switch from growth to rapid shrinking, remain poorly defined. Indeed, two-state stochastic models that seek to describe microtubule dynamics purely in terms of the biochemical properties of GTP- and GDP-bound αβ-tubulin predict the concentration dependence of microtubule catastrophe incorrectly. Recent studies provide evidence for three distinct conformations of αβ-tubulin in the lattice that likely correspond to GTP, GDP.Pi, and GDP. The incommensurate lattices observed for these different conformations raise the possibility that in a mixed nucleotide state lattice, neighboring tubulin dimers might modulate each other’s conformations and hence each other’s biochemistry. We explored whether incorporating a GDP.Pi state or the likely effects of conformational accommodation can improve predictions of catastrophe. Adding a GDP.Pi intermediate did not improve the model. In contrast, adding neighbor-dependent modulation of tubulin biochemistry improved predictions of catastrophe. Because this conformational accommodation should propagate beyond nearest-neighbor contacts, our modeling suggests that long-range, through-lattice effects are important determinants of microtubule catastrophe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1451-1462
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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