To study the possible mechanism of microtubule turnover in interphase cells, we have used the 266-nm wavelength of a short-pulsed Nd/YAG laser to transect microtubules in situ in PtK2 cells at predefined regions. The regrowth and shrinkage of the transected microtubules have been examined by staining the treated cells with antitubulin mAb at various time points after laser irradiation. The results demonstrate that microtubules grow back into the transected zones individually; neither simultaneous growth nor shrinkage of all microtubules has been observed. The half-time of replacement of laser-dissociated microtubules is observed to be approximately 10 min. On the other hand, exposure of the core of the microtubule, which is expected to consist almost completely of GDP-tubulin, by transecting the internal regions of the microtubule does not render the remaining polymer catastrophically disassembled, and most transected microtubules with free minus ends do not quickly disappear. Taken together, these results suggest that most microtubules in cultured interphase cells exhibit some properties of dynamic instability (individual regrowth or shrinkage); however, other factors in addition to the hydrolysis of GTP-tubulin need to be involved in modulating the dynamics and the stability of these cytoplasmic microtubules.

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