Microtubules are cytoskeletal elements with important cellular functions, whose dynamic behaviour and properties are in part regulated by microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). The building block of microtubules is tubulin, a heterodimer of α- and β-tubulin subunits. Longitudinal interactions between tubulin dimers facilitate a head-to-tail arrangement of dimers into protofilaments, while lateral interactions allow the formation of a hollow microtubule tube that mostly contains 13 protofilaments. Highly homologous α- and β-tubulin isotypes exist, which are encoded by multi-gene families. In vitro studies on microtubules and MAPs have largely relied on brain-derived tubulin preparations. However, these consist of an unknown mix of tubulin isotypes with undefined post-translational modifications. This has blocked studies on the functions of tubulin isotypes and the effects of tubulin mutations found in human neurological disorders. Fortunately, various methodologies to produce recombinant mammalian tubulins have become available in the last years, allowing researchers to overcome this barrier. In addition, affinity-based purification of tagged tubulins and identification of tubulin-associated proteins (TAPs) by mass spectrometry has revealed the 'tubulome' of mammalian cells. Future experiments with recombinant tubulins should allow a detailed description of how tubulin isotype influences basic microtubule behaviour, and how MAPs and TAPs impinge on tubulin isotypes and microtubule-based processes in different cell types.

doi.org/10.1042/EBC20180033, hdl.handle.net/1765/113382
Essays in Biochemistry
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Yu, N. (Nuo), & Galjart, N.J. (2018). TAPping into the treasures of tubulin using novel protein production methods. Essays in Biochemistry (Vol. 62, pp. 781–792). doi:10.1042/EBC20180033