The reorganization from a radial [corrected] interphase microtubule (MT) network into a bipolar spindle at the onset of mitosis involves a dramatic change in MT dynamics. Microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) and other factors are thought to regulate MT dynamics both in interphase and in mitosis. In this study we report the purification and functional in vitro characterization of a 230-KD MAP from Xenopus egg extract (XMAP230). This protein is present in eggs, oocytes, testis and a Xenopus tissue culture cell line. It is apparently absent from non-dividing cells in which an immunologically related 200-kD protein is found. XMAP230 is composed of two isoforms with slightly different molecular masses and pIs. It is localized to interphase MTs, dissociates from MTs at the onset of prophase and specifically binds to spindle MTs during metaphase and anaphase. The dissociation constant of XMAP230 is 500 nM, the stoichiometry of binding to MTs is between 1:8 and 1:4, and the in vivo concentration is approximately 200 nM. Both isoforms are phosphorylated and have reduced affinity for microtubules in mitotic extracts. Analysis of the effect of XMAP230 on MT dynamics by video microscopy shows that it increases the growth rate, decreases the shrinking rate of MTs and strongly suppresses catastrophes. These results suggest that in vivo, XMAP230 participates in the control of the MT elongation rate, stabilizes MTs and locally modulates MT dynamics during mitosis.

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