Structure of Dynamic, Taxol-Stabilized, and GMPPCP-Stabilized Microtubule

Microtubule (MT) is made of αβ-tubulin heterodimers that dynamically assemble into a hollow nanotube composed of straight protofilaments. MT dynamics is facilitated by hydrolysis of guanosine-5′-triphosphate (GTP) and can be inhibited by either anticancer agents like taxol or the nonhydrolyzable GTP analogues like GMPPCP. Using high-resolution synchrotron X-ray scattering, we have measured and analyzed the scattering curves from solutions of dynamic MT (in other words, in the presence of excess GTP and free of dynamic-inhibiting agents) and examined the effect of two MT stabilizers: taxol and GMPPCP. Previously, we have analyzed the structure of dynamic MT by docking the atomic model of tubulin dimer onto a 3-start left handed helical lattice, derived from the PDB ID 3J6F. 3J6F corresponds to a MT with 14 protofilaments. In this paper, we took into account the possibility of having MT structures containing between 12 and 15 protofilaments. MTs with 12 protofilaments were never observed. We determined the radii, the pitch, and the distribution of protofilament number that best fit the scattering data from dynamic MT or stabilized MT by taxol or GMPPCP. We found that the protofilament number distribution shifted when the MT was stabilized. Taxol increased the mass fraction of MT with 13 protofilaments and decreased the mass fraction of MT with 14 protofilaments. GMPPCP reduced the mass fraction of MT with 15 protofilaments and increased the mass fraction of MT with 14 protofilaments. The pitch, however, remained unchanged regardless of whether the MT was dynamic or stabilized. Higher tubulin concentrations increased the fraction of dynamic MT with 14 protofilaments.