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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Axonal tubulin and microtubules: morphologic evidence for stable regions on axonal microtubules.

Biochemical studies indicate that axonal tubulin is composed of at least two distinct pools that differ in cold solubility and biochemical composition [Brady et al: J. Cell Biol. 99:1716-1724]. To determine the morphologic correlate of cold-insoluble tubulin, segments of rat optic nerves were exposed to a series of in vitro experimental conditions that affect microtubules (MTs), including cold, podophyllotoxin (PT), triflupromazine (TFP), and taxol, and then examined by electron microscopy. Longitudinal sections of control axons showed MTs oriented parallel to the long axis of the axons. Axons exposed to cold, PT, and TFP showed short segments of MTs in association with cytoskeletal disarray. Morphometric studies were used to distinguish between a simple malorientation of MTs (undulation or zigzags in their course) and the loss of labile segments of MTs, leaving the stable portions behind. The lengths of MT segments were measured in longitudinal sections, and the numbers of MTs were determined in the cross sections. All MT segment-length histograms showed a unimodal distribution. Cold and PT produced a simple shift of the control histogram to the shorter length MTs. In cross sections the numbers of MTs in cold- and PT-exposed axons were significantly decreased, indicating that the presence of short segments of MTs in the longitudinal plane of sections was due to a loss of portions of MTs. Taxol, an agent that promotes MT assembly, reversed the cold effect partially and resulted in increases in both MT segment length and number. These studies indicate that stable MT segments are portions of longer MTs containing both stable and labile regions. Furthermore, these findings are consistent with the hypothesis that cold-insoluble tubulin functions as a transportable MT-organizing complex in the axon.[1]


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