Interphase cultured monkey kidney (TC-7) cells contain distinct subsets of cellular microtubules (MTs) enriched in posttranslationally detyrosinated (Glu) or tyrosinated (Tyr) alpha tubulin (Gundersen, G. G., M. H. Kalnoski, and J. C. Bulinski. 1984. Cell. 38:779-789). To determine the relative stability of these subsets of MTs, we subjected TC-7 cells to treatments that slowly depolymerized MTs. We found Glu MTs to be more resistant than Tyr MTs to depolymerization by nocodazole in living cells, and to depolymerization by dilution in detergent-permeabilized cell models. However, in cold-treated cells, Glu and Tyr MTs did not differ significantly in their stability. Digestion of permeabilized cell models with pancreatic carboxypeptidase A, to generate Glu MTs from endogenous Tyr MTs, did not significantly alter the resistance of the endogenous Tyr MTs toward dilution-induced depolymerization. Furthermore, in human fibroblasts that contained no distinct Glu MTs, we observed a population of nocodazole-resistant MTs. These data suggest that Glu MTs possess enhanced stability against end-mediated depolymerization, yet detyrosination alone appears to be insufficient to confer this enhanced stability.

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