The cellular mechanisms used to direct translocating organelles are poorly understood. It is believed that the intrinsic structural polarity of microtubules may play a role in this process. We have examined the effects that differently oriented microtubules have upon the direction of pigment transport in surgically severed melanophore arms. In a previous paper (McNiven, M. A., M. Wang, and K. R. Porter, 1984, Cell, 37:753-765) we reported that after isolation, arms repolarized and reoriented their microtubules outward from their centers as if to form new "microcells." Pigment aggregation in these arms was toward a new focal point located at the arm centers. In this study we monitored pigment movement in isolated arms containing taxol-stabilized microtubules to test if the reversal in direction of pigment transport is dependent upon the repolarization of microtubules. We report that taxol delays both the microtubule reorientation and reversal in transport direction in a concentration-dependent manner. These and other presented data suggest that the polarity of the microtubule population within a melanophore confers direction on pigment transport.

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