Virtually all animal cells rapidly and specifically depress synthesis of new alpha- and beta-tubulin polypeptides in response to microtubule inhibitors that increase the pool of depolymerized subunits, or in response to direct elevation of the cellular tubulin subunit content through microinjection of exogenous tubulin subunits. Collectively, these previous findings have documented the presence of an apparent eucaryotic, autoregulatory control mechanism that specifies the level of expression of tubulin in cultured animal cells. Mechanistically, this regulation of tubulin synthesis is achieved through modulation of tubulin mRNA levels. To dissect further the molecular pathway that underlies this autoregulatory phenomenon, we have now investigated whether enucleated cells still retain the requisite regulatory machinery with which to alter tubulin synthetic levels in response to fluctuations in the pool size of unpolymerized tubulin subunits. Using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis to analyze the patterns of new polypeptide synthesis, we have determined that such cytoplasts can indeed respond to drug-induced microtubule depolymerization by specific repression of new beta-tubulin synthesis. Moreover, the response of cytoplasts is, if anything, greater in magnitude than that of whole cells. We conclude that autoregulatory control of beta-tubulin gene expression must derive principally, if not exclusively, from a cytoplasmic control mechanism that modulates beta-tubulin mRNA stability. For alpha-tubulin, although the response of cytoplasts after drug-induced microtubule depolymerization is quantitatively less dramatic than that of whole cells, at least part of the regulatory machinery must also be activated through a cytoplasmic regulatory event.

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