Microtubule-associated protein 4 (MAP4) promotes MT assembly in vitro and is localized along MTs in vivo. These results and the fact that MAP4 is the major MAP in nonneuronal cells suggest that MAP4's normal functions may include the stabilization of MTs in situ. To understand MAP4 function in vivo, we produced a blocking antibody (Ab) to prevent MAP4 binding to MTs. The COOH-terminal MT binding domain of MAP4 was expressed in Escherichia coli as a glutathione transferase fusion protein and was injected into rabbits to produce an antiserum that was then affinity purified and shown to be monospecific for MAP4. This Ab blocked > 95% of MAP4 binding to MTs in an in vitro assay. Microinjection of the affinity purified Ab into human fibroblasts and monkey epithelial cells abolished MAP4 binding to MTs as assayed with a rat polyclonal antibody against the NH2-terminal projection domain of MAP4. The removal of MAP4 from MTs was accompanied by its sequestration into visible MAP4-Ab immunocomplexes. However, the MT network appeared normal. Tubulin photoactivation and nocodazole sensitivity assays indicated that MT dynamics were not altered detectably by the removal of MAP4 from the MTs. Cells progressed to mitosis with morphologically normal spindles in the absence of MAP4 binding to MTs. Depleting MAP4 from MTs also did not affect the state of posttranslational modifications of tubulin subunits. Further, no perturbations of MT-dependent organelle distribution were detected. We conclude that the association of MAP4 with MTs is not essential for MT assembly or for the MT-based functions in cultured cells that we could assay. A significant role for MAP4 is not excluded by these results, however, as MAP4 may be a component of a functionally redundant system.

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