How cells regulate α- and β-tubulin to meet the demand for αβ-heterodimers and avoid consequences of monomer imbalance is not understood. We investigate the role of gene copy number and how shifting expression of α- or β-tubulin genes impacts tubulin proteostasis and microtubule function in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We find that α-tubulin gene copy number is important for maintaining excess α-tubulin protein compared to β-tubulin protein. Excess α-tubulin prevents accumulation of super-stoichiometric β-tubulin, which leads to loss of microtubules, formation of non-microtubule assemblies of tubulin, and disrupts cell proliferation. In contrast, sub-stoichiometric β-tubulin or overexpression of α-tubulin has minor effects. We provide evidence that yeast cells equilibrate α-tubulin protein concentration when α-tubulin isotype expression is increased. We propose an asymmetric relationship between α- and β-tubulins, in which α-tubulins are maintained in excess to supply αβ-heterodimers and limit the accumulation of β-tubulin monomers.

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