The standard free energy for hydrolysis of the GTP analogue guanylyl-(a,b)-methylene-diphosphonate (GMPCPP), which is -5.18 kcal in solution, was found to be -3.79 kcal in tubulin dimers, and only -0.90 kcal in tubulin subunits in microtubules. The near-zero change in standard free energy for GMPCPP hydrolysis in the microtubule indicates that the majority of the free energy potentially available from this reaction is stored in the microtubule lattice; this energy is available to do work, as in chromosome movement. The equilibrium constants described here were obtained from video microscopy measurements of the kinetics of assembly and disassembly of GMPCPP-microtubules and GMPCP-microtubules. It was possible to study GMPCPP-microtubules since GMPCPP is not hydrolyzed during assembly. Microtubules containing GMPCP were obtained by assembly of high concentrations of tubulin-GMPCP subunits, as well as by treating tubulin-GMPCPP-microtubules in sodium (but not potassium) Pipes buffer with glycerol, which reduced the half-time for GMPCPP hydrolysis from > 10 h to approximately 10 min. The rate for tubulin-GMPCPP and tubulin-GMPCP subunit dissociation from microtubule ends were found to be about 0.65 and 128 s-1, respectively. The much faster rate for tubulin-GMPCP subunit dissociation provides direct evidence that microtubule dynamics can be regulated by nucleotide triphosphate hydrolysis.

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